Brain’s ‘Background Noise’ May Hold Clues to Persistent Mysteries

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Brain’s ‘Background Noise’ May Hold Clues to Persistent Mysteries

Elizabeth Landau

Quote:Skeptics used to tell the neuroscientist Bradley Voytek that there was nothing worth studying in these noisy features of brain activity. But his own studies of changes in electrical noise as people age, as well as previous literature on statistical trends in irregular brain activity, convinced him that they were missing something. So he spent years working on a way to help scientists rethink their data.

Quote:The brains of older adults seem to have more aperiodic activity than those of younger adults, Voytek found in a 2015 study with his doctoral adviser Robert Knight, a professor of neuroscience at Berkeley. Voytek and Knight observed that as the brain ages, it is dominated more by white noise. They also found correlations between this noise and age-related working memory decline.

Quote:For Baillet, the aperiodic signals in the brain are a bit like dark matter, the invisible scaffolding of the universe that interacts with normal matter only through gravity. We don’t understand what it’s made of or what its properties are, but it’s out there in the celestial background, furtively holding the Milky Way together.

Scientists haven’t figured out what causes these aperiodic signals yet, but they too may reflect an essential support structure for the universe in our heads. Something mysterious may help tip our minds from waking life into slumber.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell

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