Scientists have discovered mysterious spiral signals in the human brain that swirl like vortices. Researchers don’t yet know exactly what creates spiral signals, but they may be important for complex brain activity.
Scientists at the University of Sydney and Fudan University have discovered these naturally occurring spiral brain waves propagating through the outer layer of the brain.
“These spiral patterns exhibit intricate dynamics as they move across the surface of the brain and rotate around central points. Very similar to how vortices act in turbulence,” said Associate Professor Pulin Gong from the University of Sydney.
The signals were detected by scanning the brains of 100 healthy young adults using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). They arose both during a person’s rest and during the performance of any tasks.
These spirals have been observed in the cerebral cortex. This area is responsible for various cognitive functions, including perception, memory, attention, speech, and awareness.
The team hypothesizes that spiral brain waves organize cognitive processes by functioning as a link that connects different parts of the brain. This may allow our brains to process information faster when performing complex actions.
These helical signals appear to originate at “borders” in the brain that normally separate different functional areas. The helix most likely connects separate regions in a network through movement, allowing for optimal transmission of commands between different brain networks.
“We have observed that these interacting brain coils allow for flexible reconfiguration of brain activity during various natural language processing and working memory tasks, which they achieve by changing the direction of rotation,” said Yiben Xu, graduate student and lead author of this study.
The exact role of these brain vortices is unknown, but they may be useful in understanding the development of brain disorders. The cerebral cortex is affected by several neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.
These spiral signals are likely to be impaired in people suffering from any of these brain disorders. Medical experts can use this knowledge to study the role of spiral movement in brain diseases.
The authors of the study emphasize that the results obtained can be used to create advanced computer machines to study the complex operations that underlie the brain.
“Complex interactions between many coexisting helices could allow neural computation to be carried out in a distributed and parallel manner, leading to remarkable computational efficiency,” Gong added.
The team mentioned that understanding the functioning of the helix can help to better understand the fundamental functions of the brain.
The study is published in the journal Nature Human Behavior.