Grant to theory of critical brain dynamics

November 3, 2015

The 4-year PhD project is funded by a grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (MaGW, NWO) to Klaus Linkenkaer-Hansen and "Research Talent" Arthur-Ervin Avramiea.

Klaus Linkenkaer-Hansen is PI of Neuronal Oscillations and Cognition group in the CNCR’s Department of Integrative Neurophysiology. His research is focused on the complex dynamics of neuronal oscillations and its implications for cognition in health and disease.


“I am grateful to NWO for supporting our work on critical brain dynamics for the fifth time. It’s no longer a fresh idea to propose “criticality” as an organizing principle of brain function, now we’re interested in the exciting applications of this framework. In neuroscience, we often perform a series of measurements to estimate a mean value of some form of neuronal activity. The variation over time is treated as noise even though these variations may reflect important mechanisms. With the theory of critical brain dynamics, we are interested in spatio-temporal variability of activity on many scales of neuronal organization, from single-neuron firing to whole-brain dynamics, conscious perception and behavior. We often find that modeling and measuring the temporal structure of variability is more telling about the functional properties of neuronal systems than average values. It’s like with music, the average pitch and volume isn’t very informative!”

The project was conceived together with Arthur-Ervin Avramiea who will graduate Cum Laude with a masters in Artificial Intelligence from the VU in 2015, and will build on the work of Simon-Shlomo Poil and Richard Hardstone who developed the first model of critical neuronal oscillations (CROS). We will extend the model considerably in terms of biological mechanisms implemented and use it to design and interpret neuroimaging experiments in humans. Importantly, we will investigate how the theory of critical brain dynamics can enrich other contemporary theories of brain function, and replace the concept of “noise” in cognitive neuroscience with mechanistic explanations for neuro-cognitive variability.


Poil, S. S., Hardstone, R., Mansvelder, H. D., & Linkenkaer-Hansen, K. (2012). Critical-state dynamics of avalanches and oscillations jointly emerge from balanced excitation/inhibition in neuronal networks. The Journal of Neuroscience, 32(29), 9817-9823.

For more information please contact Klaus Linkenkaer-Hansen