Can the macro beat the micro? Integrated information across spatiotemporal scales

IntroductionThe causal structure of physical systems can be analyzed at various spatial or temporal levels, from the most fine-grained micro level to any coarse-grained macro level. For example, the brain can be analyzed, in space, at the level of neurons, neuronal groups, macro-columns, and areas; and in time, over tens, hundreds, and thousands of milliseconds (Sporns et al., 2005). Practical considerations, lack of detailed data, and heuristic strategies usually dictate the spatiotemporal scale at which a system’s causal structure is actually studied, which is often very coarse-grained. Thus, neuroimaging studies of effective connectivity in the brain examine interactions at the spatial level of voxels, which contain millions of neurons, and at the temporal level of blood-oxygen fluctuations, on the order of seconds. While such coarse-grained investigations are useful, it is…


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