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From molecules to mindfulness: How vertically convergent fractal time fluctuations unify cognition and emotion*

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Fractal time fluctuations of the spectral “1/f” form are universal in natural self-organizing systems. Neurobiology is uniquely infused with fractal fluctuations in the form of statistically self-similar clusters or bursts on all levels of description from molecular events such as protein chain fluctuations, ion channel currents and synaptic processes to the behaviors of neural ensembles or the collective behavior of Internet users. It is the thesis of this essay that the brain self-organizes via a vertical collation of these spontaneous events in order to perceive the world and generate adaptive behaviors. REM sleep, which coalesces from self-similar clusters of burst-within-burst behavior during ontogeny, is essential to cognitive-emotional function, and has recurrent fractal organization. Empirical fMRI observations further support the association of fractal fluctuations in the temporal lobes, brainstem and cerebellum during the expression of emotional memory, spontaneous fluctuations of thought and meditative practice. Cognitive-emotional integration arises as amygdaloid-brainstem-cerebellar systems harmonize the vertical “1/f” symphony of coupled isochronous cortical oscillations in the pursuit of mindfulness.

Keywords: 1/f noise; REM sleep; amygdala; attention; cerebellar vermis; development; dynamical systems; emotion; fractal; meditation; self-organized criticality; stochastic resonance

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Harvard Medical School

Publication date: March 1, 2000

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