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The frustrated brain: From dynamics on motifs to communities and networks

DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0532

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Cognitive function depends on an adaptive balance between flexible dynamics and integrative processes in distributed cortical networks. Patterns of zero-lag synchrony likely underpin numerous perceptual and cognitive functions. Synchronization fulfils integration by reducing entropy, whilst adaptive function mandates that a broad variety of stable states be readily accessible. Here, we elucidate two complementary influences on patterns of zero-lag synchrony that derive from basic properties of brain networks. First, mutually coupled pairs of neuronal subsystems -- resonance pairs -- promote stable zero-lag synchrony amongst the small motifs in which they are embedded, and whose effects can propagate along connected chains. Second, frustrated closed-loop motifs disrupt synchronous dynamics, enabling metastable configurations of zero-lag synchrony to coexist. We document these two complementary influences in small motifs and illustrate how these effects underpin stable versus metastable phase-synchronization patterns in prototypical modular networks and in large-scale cortical networks of the macaque (CoCoMac). We find that the variability of synchronization patterns depends on the inter-node time delay, increases with the network size, and is maximized for intermediate coupling strengths. We hypothesize that the dialectic influences of resonance versus frustration may form a dynamic substrate for flexible neuronal integration, an essential platform across diverse cognitive processes.


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