New research published in a high impact journal shows that there could be "one Ring to rule them all" orchestrating brain dynamics, in some ways similar to Tolkien’s famous poem in The Lord of the Rings. The study has identified a ring of regions of the prefrontal cortex which sits at the top of the hierarchical system governing brain dynamics. This allows the brain to manage information flow in the most efficient way needed for both survival and thriving.
"Ash nazg durbatulûk!", Tolkien wrote in his fictional Black Speech language in The Lord of the Rings. In English this translates into "one ring to rule them all" and could serve as a metaphor of how brain dynamics work, according to a recent study led by the Center for Brain and Cognition at UPF and the Centre for Eudaimonia and Human Flourishing at the University of Oxford, UK. The study discovered that a ring of regions in the prefrontal cortex is temporarily responsible for directing brain dynamics when performing cognition including processes such as memory, controlling emotions, inhibition of responses and decision making.
Confirming the ’Perception-Action Cycle’ hypothesis put forward many years ago by the famous Catalan neuroscientist Joaquín Fuster, for many years a distinguished professor at UCLA and a co-author of the present study, the study show that these prefrontal cortex regions play a decisive role in orchestrating a ’ring’ through the environment, sensory feedback, and to the cortex, to action and back.
Gustavo Deco (CBC, UPF): "This study has finally allowed us to identify that the prefrontal cortex is at the top of the orchestration system of brain dynamics" "The theoretical framework developed has made it possible to demonstrate empirically how each of the brain regions is involved in the direction taken by the global brain dynamics, thus making it possible to determine how it is hierarchically structured. This study has finally allowed us to identify that the prefrontal cortex is at the top of the orchestration system of brain dynamics", explains Professor Deco.
The results of this study are presented in the scientific article entitled One ring to rule them all: The unifying role of prefrontal cortex in steering task-related brain dynamics, recently published in the journal Progress in Neurobiology. The study has been led by ICREA Professor Gustavo Deco, director of the Computational Neuroscience research group at the Center for Brain and Cognition (CBC) at UPF, and Professor Morten L. Kringelbach , Director of the Centre for Eudaimonia and Human Flourishing at Linacre College and the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford as well as Principal Investigator at the Center for Music in the Brain at Aarhus University in Denmark. The other co-authors of the article are Yonatan Sanz Perl (UPF and University of Buenos Aires), Adrián Ponce-Alvarez (UPF); Enzo Tagliazucchi (University of Buenos Aires and Adolfo Ibanez University of Santiago de Chile), Peter C. Whybrow and Joaquín Fuster (University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA).
Deco G, Sanz Perl Y, Ponce-Alvarez A, Tagliazucchi E, Whybrow PC, Fuster J, Kringelbach ML. One ring to rule them all: The unifying role of prefrontal cortex in steering task-related brain dynamics. Prog Neurobiol. 2023 Aug;227:102468. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pneurobio.2023.102468 . Epub 2023 Jun 8. PMID: 37301532.
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