Parcels and particles: Markov blankets in the brain

Research output: Working paperPreprint


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 characterising functional integration. The first is a mechanistic modelling of connectomics in terms of directed effective connectivity that mediates neuronal message passing and dynamics on neuronal circuits. The second phenomenological approach usually characterises undirected functional connectivity (i.e., measurable correlations), in terms of intrinsic brain networks, self-organised criticality, dynamical instability, etc. 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-organisation of far from equilibrium systems. Using the apparatus of the renormalisation 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 larger scales. As such, it offers a way of linking dynamics on directed graphs to the phenomenology of intrinsic brain networks.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusSubmitted - 19 Jul 2020

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