The electrical activity of the brain offers a fascinating example of accurate yet robust control of “brain states”, characterized by distinct mean-field spatiotemporal signatures associated to key functions such as attention to sensory stimuli and preparation of motor actions. We still lack a modelling framework to analyse and design control systems spanning such a range of temporal and spatial scales. Inspired by the known physiology of brain states, I will describe a simple mechanism to enable mean-field control at a cellular resolution. I will argue that neuronal excitability is central to this organisation principle and contrast the role of excitability with the more prevalent paradigm of synchronisation. From a network perspective, the former is a control mechanism at the node level whereas the latter is a control mechanism at the connectivity level.
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