What is metastability?

Empirical evidence from human resting state networks has shown a tendency for multiple brain areas to synchronise for short amounts of time, and for different synchronous groups to appear at different times. In dynamical systems terms, this behaviour resembles metastability — an intrinsically driven movement between transient, attractor-like states. However, it remains an open question what the underlying mechanism is that gives rise to these observed phenomena. Recent theories suggest that transient periods of synchronisation and desynchronisation provide a mechanism for dynamically integrating and forming coalitions of functionally related neural areas, and that at these times conditions are optimal for information transfer. Hence such seemingly metastable dynamics could facilitate versatile exploration, integration, and communication between functionally related neural areas, and thereby support sophisticated cognitive processing in the brain.

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