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J Milton. 2012. Neuronal avalanches, epileptic quakes and other transient forms of neurodynamics. European Journal of Neuroscience 36: 2156-2163. Full Article

Power law behaviors in brain activity in healthy animals, in the form of neuronal avalanches, potentially benefit the computational activities of the brain, including information storage, transmission and processing. In contrast, power law behaviors associated with seizures, in the form of epileptic quakes; potentially interfere with the brain’s computational activities. This review draws attention to the potential roles played by homeostatic mechanisms and multistable time-delayed recurrent inhibitory loops in the generation of power law phenomena. Moreover, it is suggested that distinctions between health and disease are scale-dependent. In other words, it is not the propagation of neural activity that is abnormal, but the propagation of activity in a neural population that is large enough to interfere with the normal activities of the brain that defines disease. From this point of view, epilepsy is a disease that results from a failure of mechanisms, possibly located in part in the cortex itself or in the deep brain nuclei and brainstem, which truncate, or otherwise confine, the spatiotemporal scales of these power law phenomena.

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