Criticality between Cortical States

Phys Rev Lett. 2019 May 24;122(20):208101. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.122.208101.


Since the first measurements of neuronal avalanches, the critical brain hypothesis has gained traction. However, if the brain is critical, what is the phase transition? For several decades, it has been known that the cerebral cortex operates in a diversity of regimes, ranging from highly synchronous states (with higher spiking variability) to desynchronized states (with lower spiking variability). Here, using both new and publicly available data, we test independent signatures of criticality and show that a phase transition occurs in an intermediate value of spiking variability, in both anesthetized and freely moving animals. The critical exponents point to a universality class different from mean-field directed percolation. Importantly, as the cortex hovers around this critical point, the avalanche exponents follow a linear relation that encompasses previous experimental results from different setups and is reproduced by a model.