About this Research Topic
To many scientists the gap between the nineteenth century views of consciousness proposed by the psychologist William James and that developed by the inventor of psychophysics Gustav Fechner has never seemed wider. However the twentieth century concept of collective/cooperative behavior within the brain has partially reconciled these diverging perspectives suggesting the notion of consciousness as a physical phenomenon. A kernel of twenty-first century investigators bases their investigations on physiological fluctuations experiments. These fluctuations, although apparently erratic, when analyzed with advanced methods of fractal statistical analysis reveal the emergence of complex behavior, intermediate between complete order and total randomness, a property usually referred to as temporal complexity. Others, with the help of modern technologies, such MRI, establish a more direct analysis of brain dynamics, and focus on the brain’s topological complexity. Consequently the two groups adopt different approaches, the former being based on phenomenological and macroscopic considerations, and the latter resting on the crucial role of neuron interactions. The neurophysiology research work has an increasing overlap with the emerging field of complex networks, whereas the behavior psychology experiments have until recently ignored the complex cooperative dynamics that are proved by increasing experimental evidence to characterize the brain function.
It is crucial to examine both the experimental and theoretical studies that support and those that challenge the view that it is an emergent collective property that allows the healthy brain to function. What needs to be discussed are new ways to understand the transport of information through complex networks sharing the same dynamical properties as the brain. In addition we need to understand information transfer between complex networks, say between the brain and a controlled experimental stimulus. Experiments suggest that brain excitation is described by inverse power-law distributions and recent studies in network dynamics indicate that this distribution is the result of phase transitions due to neuron network dynamics. It is important to stress that the development of dynamic networking establishes a connection between topological and temporal complexity, establishing that a scale-free distribution of links is generated by the dynamic correlation between dynamic elements located at very large Euclidean distances from one another. Dynamic networking and dynamics networks suggest a new way to transfer information: the long-distance communication through local cooperative interaction. It is anticipated that the contributed discussions will clarify how the global intelligence of a complex network emerges from the local cooperation of units and the role played by critical phase transitions in the observed persistence of this cooperation.
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