Dynamic systems approaches and levels of analysis in the nervous system
Frontiers in Physiology
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Parker, D., & Srivastava, V. (2013). Dynamic systems approaches and levels of analysis in the nervous system. Frontiers in Physiology, 4 https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2013.00015
Various analyses are applied to physiological signals. While epistemological diversity is necessary to address effects at different levels, there is often a sense of competition between analyses rather than integration. This is evidenced by the differences in the criteria needed to claim understanding in different approaches. In the nervous system, neuronal analyses that attempt to explain network outputs in cellular and synaptic terms are rightly criticized as being insufficient to explain global effects, emergent or otherwise, while higher-level statistical and mathematical analyses can provide quantitative descriptions of outputs but can only hypothesize on their underlying mechanisms. The major gap in neuroscience is arguably our inability to translate what should be seen as complementary effects between levels. We thus ultimately need approaches that allow us to bridge between different spatial and temporal levels. Analytical approaches derived from critical phenomena in the physical sciences are increasingly being applied to physiological systems, including the nervous system, and claim to provide novel insight into physiological mechanisms and opportunities for their control. Analyses of criticality have suggested several important insights that should be considered in cellular analyses. However, there is a mismatch between lower-level neurophysiological approaches and statistical phenomenological analyses that assume that lower-level effects can be abstracted away, which means that these effects are unknown or inaccessible to experimentalists. As a result experimental designs often generate data that is insufficient for analyses of criticality. This review considers the relevance of insights from analyses of criticality to neuronal network analyses, and highlights that to move the analyses forward and close the gap between the theoretical and neurobiological levels, it is necessary to consider that effects at each level are complementary rather than in competition.
neuronal network, criticality, spinal cord
Vipin Srivastava would like to thank the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India for support under their cognitive science research initiative.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2013.00015
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/246321
Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales
Licence URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/uk/
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