Long-range temporal correlations in the broadband resting state activity of the human brain revealed by neuronal avalanches

Fabrizio Lombardi, Oren Shriki, Hans J. Herrmann, Lucilla de Arcangelis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Resting-state brain activity is characterized by the presence of neuronal avalanches showing absence of characteristic size. Such evidence has been interpreted in the context of criticality and associated with the normal functioning of the brain. A distinctive attribute of systems at criticality is the presence of long-range correlations. Thus, to verify the hypothesis that the brain operates close to a critical point and consequently assess deviations from criticality for diagnostic purposes, it is of primary importance to robustly and reliably characterize correlations in resting-state brain activity. Recent works focused on the analysis of narrow-band electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) signal amplitude envelope, showing evidence of long-range temporal correlations (LRTC) in neural oscillations. However, brain activity is a broadband phenomenon, and a significant piece of information useful to precisely discriminate between normal (critical) and pathological behavior (non-critical), may be encoded in the broadband spatio-temporal cortical dynamics. Here we propose to characterize the temporal correlations in the broadband brain activity through the lens of neuronal avalanches. To this end, we consider resting-state EEG and long-term MEG recordings, extract the corresponding neuronal avalanche sequences, and study their temporal correlations. We demonstrate that the broadband resting-state brain activity consistently exhibits long-range power-law correlations in both EEG and MEG recordings, with similar values of the scaling exponents. Importantly, although we observe that the avalanche size distribution depends on scale parameters, scaling exponents characterizing long-range correlations are quite robust. In particular, they are independent of the temporal binning (scale of analysis), indicating that our analysis captures intrinsic characteristics of the underlying dynamics. Because neuronal avalanches constitute a fundamental feature of neural systems with universal characteristics, the proposed approach may serve as a general, systems- and experiment-independent procedure to infer the existence of underlying long-range correlations in extended neural systems, and identify pathological behaviors in the complex spatio-temporal interplay of cortical rhythms.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)657-666
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 21 Oct 2021


  • Brain
  • Criticality
  • DFA
  • EEG
  • LRTC
  • MEG
  • Neuronal avalanches
  • Power-laws
  • Resting state
  • Temporal correlations

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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