Near-critical dynamics in stimulus-evoked activity of the human brain and its relation to spontaneous resting-state activity

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In recent years, numerous studies have found that the brain at resting state displays many features characteristic of a critical state. Here we examine whether stimulus-evoked activity can also be regarded as critical. Additionally, we investigate the relation between restingstate activity and stimulus-evoked activity from the perspective of criticality. We found that cortical activity measured by magnetoencephalography (MEG) is near critical and organizes as neuronal avalanches at both resting-state and stimulus-evoked activities. Moreover, a significantly high intrasubject similarity between avalanche size and duration distributions at both cognitive states was found, suggesting that the distributions capture specific features of the individual brain dynamics. When comparing different subjects, a higher intersubject consistency was found for stimulus-evoked activity than for resting state. This was expressed by the distance between avalanche size and duration distributions of different participants and was supported by the spatial spreading of the avalanches involved. During the course of stimulus-evoked activity, time locked to the stimulus onset, we demonstrate fluctuations in the gain of the neuronal system and thus short timescale deviations from the critical state. Nonetheless, the overall near-critical state in stimulus-evoked activity is retained over longer timescales, in close proximity and with a high correlation to spontaneous (not time-locked) resting-state activity. Spatially, the observed fluctuations in gain manifest through anticorrelative activations of brain sites involved, suggesting a switch between task-negative (default mode) and task-positive networks and assigning the changes in excitation–inhibition balance to nodes within these networks. Overall, this study offers a novel outlook on evoked activity through the framework of criticality.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)13927-13942
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number41
StatePublished - 14 Oct 2015


  • Criticality
  • ERF
  • ERP
  • Face processing
  • MEG
  • Neuronal avalanches

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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