Markov blankets in the brain

Inês Hipólito*, Maxwell J. D. Ramstead, Laura Convertino, Anjali Bhat, Karl Friston, Thomas Parr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
35 Downloads (Pure)


Recent characterisations of self-organising systems depend upon the presence of a 'Markov blanket': a statistical boundary that mediates the interactions between the inside and outside of a system. We leverage this idea to provide an analysis of partitions in neuronal systems. This is applicable to brain architectures at multiple scales, enabling partitions into single neurons, brain regions, and brain-wide networks. This treatment is based upon the canonical micro-circuitry used in empirical studies of effective connectivity, so as to speak directly to practical applications. The notion of effective connectivity depends upon the dynamic coupling between functional units, whose form recapitulates that of a Markov blanket at each level of analysis. The nuance afforded by partitioning neural systems in this way highlights certain limitations of 'modular' perspectives of brain function that only consider a single level of description.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-97
Number of pages10
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Publisher 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Markov blankets
  • dynamic causal modelling
  • boundaries
  • canonical microcircuit
  • Canonical microcircuit
  • Boundaries
  • Dynamic causal modelling


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