As a perfect follow up on the previous post “How everything is a mess and still ok” where the subject was noise in gene expression, comes the following piece of news from e! Science news (research published in the July 4, 2008 issue of the Public Library of Science – Computational Biology):
“What we discovered is that brain maturation not only leads to more stable and accurate behaviour in the performance of a memory task, but correlates with increased brain signal variability,” said lead author, Dr. Randy McIntosh, a senior scientist with the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest. “This doesn’t mean the brain is working less efficiently. It’s showing greater functional variability, which is indicative of enhanced neural complexity.”
and when comparing children to young adults
Researchers found that not only did the young adults score better on the face recognition tasks (i.e. they showed more stable and accurate cognitive behaviour) compared to the children, but the young adults’ brain signal variability actually increased – got noisier.
“These findings suggest that the random activity that we think of as noise may actually be a central component of normal brain function,” said Dr. McIntosh.
There’s this emerging understanding that noise is good. Noise is the diversity/plasticity that ensures proper performance and evolution of specific traits. Noise is the stuff from where melodies emerge.
This is a new way of looking at things. Our world-view used to be that melodies were created from nowhere in brilliant musical minds and noise (presumably as found in the minds of the rest of us) was a barrier that functioned only to obscure and hide the tunes. We are discovering that the opposite is true: chaos is the stuff from where good things emerge. And the brilliant minds (or biological processes if you will) are the ones able to pick the melodies from the chaos.