Parcels and particles: Markov blankets in the brain

Karl J. Friston, Erik D. Fagerholm, Tahereh S. Zarghami, Thomas Parr, Inês Hipólito, Loïc Magrou, Adeel Razi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Downloads (Pure)


At the inception of human brain mapping, two principles of functional anatomy underwrote most conceptions-and analyses-of distributed brain responses: namely, functional segregation and integration. There are currently two main approaches to characterizing functional integration. The first is a mechanistic modeling of connectomics in terms of directed effective connectivity that mediates neuronal message passing and dynamics on neuronal circuits. The second phenomenological approach usually characterizes undirected functional connectivity (i.e., measurable correlations), in terms of intrinsic brain networks, self-organized criticality, dynamical instability, and so on. This paper describes a treatment of effective connectivity that speaks to the emergence of intrinsic brain networks and critical dynamics. It is predicated on the notion of Markov blankets that play a fundamental role in the self-organization of far from equilibrium systems. Using the apparatus of the renormalization group, we show that much of the phenomenology found in network neuroscience is an emergent property of a particular partition of neuronal states, over progressively coarser scales. As such, it offers a way of linking dynamics on directed graphs to the phenomenology of intrinsic brain networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-251
Number of pages41
JournalNetwork Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Publisher 2020. 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.


  • functional connectivity
  • effective connectivity
  • Markov blankets
  • renormalization group
  • dynamic causal modeling
  • intrinsic brain networks


Dive into the research topics of 'Parcels and particles: Markov blankets in the brain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this