Universal critical dynamics in high resolution neuronal avalanche data

Phys Rev Lett. 2012 May 18;108(20):208102. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.208102. Epub 2012 May 16.


The tasks of neural computation are remarkably diverse. To function optimally, neuronal networks have been hypothesized to operate near a nonequilibrium critical point. However, experimental evidence for critical dynamics has been inconclusive. Here, we show that the dynamics of cultured cortical networks are critical. We analyze neuronal network data collected at the individual neuron level using the framework of nonequilibrium phase transitions. Among the most striking predictions confirmed is that the mean temporal profiles of avalanches of widely varying durations are quantitatively described by a single universal scaling function. We also show that the data have three additional features predicted by critical phenomena: approximate power law distributions of avalanche sizes and durations, samples in subcritical and supercritical phases, and scaling laws between anomalous exponents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Rats