Article abstract

Nature Physics 2, 348 - 351 (2006)

Subject Categories: Statistical physics, thermodynamics and nonlinear dynamics | Biological physics

Optimal dynamical range of excitable networks at criticality

Osame Kinouchi1,3 and Mauro Copelli2,3

A recurrent idea in the study of complex systems is that optimal information processing is to be found near phase transitions. However, this heuristic hypothesis has few (if any) concrete realizations where a standard and biologically relevant quantity is optimized at criticality. Here we give a clear example of such a phenomenon: a network of excitable elements has its sensitivity and dynamic range maximized at the critical point of a non-equilibrium phase transition. Our results are compatible with the essential role of gap junctions in olfactory glomeruli and retinal ganglionar cell output. Synchronization and global oscillations also emerge from the network dynamics. We propose that the main functional role of electrical coupling is to provide an enhancement of dynamic range, therefore allowing the coding of information spanning several orders of magnitude. The mechanism could provide a microscopic neural basis for psychophysical laws.

  1. Departamento de Física e Matemática, Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. dos Bandeirantes 3900, 14040-901 Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil
  2. Laboratório de Física Teórica e Computacional, Departamento de Física, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, 50670-901 Recife, PE, Brazil
  3. These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to: Osame Kinouchi1,3 e-mail:


These links to content published by NPG are automatically generated.