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Our Swirling Thoughts Are Swirling Spirals?

Research has revealed swirling spirals within the human brain, intricately woven into the outer layer of neural tissue.

These fascinating patterns play a pivotal role in orchestrating brain activity and cognitive processing, offering a glimpse into the intricate choreography that governs our thoughts and actions.

The discovery of these swirling spirals, based on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, holds the potential to revolutionize our comprehension of brain dynamics. By unraveling the mysteries of these mesmerizing patterns, scientists may pave the way for more sophisticated computational models of the brain, potentially unlocking insights into neurological disorders like dementia.

This newfound knowledge has significant implications for promoting brain health and well-being. By understanding the mechanisms underlying these swirling spirals, we can gain valuable insights into how to optimize cognitive performance and maintain a healthy brain throughout our lives.

What’s in the study?

A key finding of the study is that these spiral patterns exhibit intricate and complex dynamics, moving across the brain’s surface while rotating around central points known as phase singularities. This dynamic behavior, reminiscent of vortices in turbulent fluids, suggests that the spirals engage in intricate interactions, playing a pivotal role in organizing the brain’s complex activities.

The researchers believe that the intricate interactions among multiple co-existing spirals could facilitate remarkable computational efficiency in the brain. This distributed and parallel processing capability could contribute to the brain’s ability to handle complex cognitive tasks.

The location of these spirals on the cortex, the outermost layer of the brain, suggests that they may serve as bridges of communication, connecting activity in different sections or networks of the brain. Some of these spirals are even large enough to encompass multiple networks, potentially facilitating cross-network communication and integration of information.

How the spirals work?

One intriguing characteristic of these brain spirals is their tendency to form at the boundaries that separate distinct functional networks within the brain. Their rotational motion effectively coordinates the flow of activity between these networks, allowing for seamless communication and integration of information.

The researchers observed that these interacting brain spirals enable flexible reconfiguration of brain activity during various cognitive tasks, such as natural language processing and working memory. They achieve this adaptability by dynamically altering their rotational directions.

The study, based on fMRI scans of 100 young adults, represents a significant advancement in understanding the dynamics of brain activity. It suggests that these intricate patterns of swirling spirals play a crucial role in orchestrating cognitive processes, akin to the role of vortices in turbulence.

This discovery marks a shift in the traditional focus of neuroscience, which has primarily centered on interactions between individual neurons. The study highlights the importance of examining larger-scale processes within the brain to gain deeper insights into its complex workings.

As we continue to unravel the mysteries of brain activity and uncover the mechanisms governing its coordination, we move closer to unlocking the full potential of understanding cognition and brain function. These findings hold promise for advancements in neuroscience and the development of more sophisticated brain-inspired computing systems.


The large-scale activity of the human brain exhibits rich and complex patterns, but the spatiotemporal dynamics of these patterns and their functional roles in cognition remain unclear. Here by characterizing moment-by-moment fluctuations of human cortical functional magnetic resonance imaging signals, we show that spiral-like, rotational wave patterns (brain spirals) are widespread during both resting and cognitive task states. These brain spirals propagate across the cortex while rotating around their phase singularity centres, giving rise to spatiotemporal activity dynamics with non-stationary features. The properties of these brain spirals, such as their rotational directions and locations, are task relevant and can be used to classify different cognitive tasks. We also demonstrate that multiple, interacting brain spirals are involved in coordinating the correlated activations and de-activations of distributed functional regions; this mechanism enables flexible reconfiguration of task-driven activity flow between bottom-up and top-down directions during cognitive processing. Our findings suggest that brain spirals organize complex spatiotemporal dynamics of the human brain and have functional correlates to cognitive processing.

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