Humans are high-dimensional, complex systems consisting of many components that must coordinate in order to perform even the simplest of activities. Many behavioral studies, especially in the movement sciences, have advanced the notion of soft-assembly to describe how systems with many components coordinate to perform specific functions while also exhibiting the potential to re-structure and then perform other functions as task demands change. Consistent with this notion, within cognitive neuroscience it is increasingly accepted that the brain flexibly coordinates the networks needed to cope with changing task demands. However, evaluation of various indices of soft-assembly has so far been absent from neurophysiological research. To begin addressing this gap, we investigated task-related changes in two distinct indices of soft-assembly using the established phenomenon of EEG repetition suppression. In a repetition priming task, we assessed evidence for changes in the correlation dimension and fractal scaling exponents during stimulus-locked event-related potentials, as a function of stimulus onset and familiarity, and relative to spontaneous non-task-related activity. Consistent with predictions derived from soft-assembly, results indicated decreases in dimensionality and increases in fractal scaling exponents from resting to pre-stimulus states and following stimulus onset. However, contrary to predictions, familiarity tended to increase dimensionality estimates. Overall, the findings support the view from soft-assembly that neural dynamics should become increasingly ordered as external task demands increase, and support the broader application of soft-assembly logic in understanding human behavior and electrophysiology.
Wiltshire, T., Euler, M., McKinney, T., & Butner, J. E. (2017). Changes in Dimensionality and Fractal Scaling Suggest Soft-Assembled Dynamics in Human EEG. Frontiers in Physiology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2017.00633