Brain Dynamics and Dynamics of Brain Disease

I am on my way to the FENS-IBRO-Hertie Winter School “Brain Dynamics and Dynamics of Brain Disease. My slides are here.

I am quite happy to see that it actually becomes less remarkable that brain dynamics in disorders like Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, autism, schizophrenia, sleep disorders, stroke, and—not least— migraine should be described in terms of mathematics. Of course, there is no other language for dynamics. Now, we even have a Winter School devoted to the topic.

Already Freud thought about psychiatric functions in terms of network diagrams that much look like computational networks today. In the 1970ies, Leon Glass and Michael Mackey coined the term dynamical disease to identify diseases that occur due to an abrupt change in the natural rhythms of the body. When rhythms become abnormal this could be due to a tipping point called bifurcation.

Why mathematics, you ask? Well, is it not enough that it is the noblest virtue? No? Then here is the actual reason:

“The significance of identifying a dynamical disease is that it should be possible to develop therapeutic strategies based on our understanding of dynamics combined with manipulations of the physiological parameters back into the normal ranges.”
(Belair, Glass, an der Heiden, & Milton, Chaos, 5, 1995)

This is how the founders of the concept of dynamical diseases put it in a paper. Or my last quote from the FENS-IBRO-Hertie Winter School website:

Tools from computational neuroscience can be extended to reveal and understand the neural mechanisms underlying brain function and dysfunction, and even suggest new therapeutic strategies.

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Markus Dahlem forscht seit über 20 Jahren über Migräne, hat Gastpositionen an der HU Berlin und am Massachusetts General Hospital. Außerdem ist er Geschäftsführer und Mitgründer des Berliner eHealth-Startup Newsenselab, das die Migräne- und Kopfschmerz-App M-sense entwickelt.

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