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On relaxation times of heteroclinic dynamics

Heteroclinic dynamics provide a suitable framework for describing transient dynamics such as cognitive processes in the brain. It is appreciated for being well reproducible and at the same time highly sensitive to external input. It is supposed to capture features of switching statistics between metastable states in the brain. Beyond the high sensitivity, a further desirable feature of these dynamics is to enable a fast adaptation to new external input.

In view of this, we analyze relaxation times of heteroclinic motion toward a new resting state, when oscillations in heteroclinic networks are arrested by a quench of a bifurcation parameter from a parameter regime of oscillations to a regime of equilibrium states.

As it turns out, the relaxation is underdamped and depends on the nesting of the attractor space, the size of the attractor’s basin of attraction, the depth of the quench, and the level of noise. In the case of coupled heteroclinic units, it depends on the coupling strength, the coupling type, and synchronization between different units.

Depending on how these factors are combined, finite relaxation times may support or impede a fast switching to new external input. Our results also shed some light on the discussion of how the stability of a system changes with its complexity.

M. Aravind, H. Meyer-Ortmanns, On relaxation times of heteroclinic dynamics, Chaos 33(10) (2023) 103138, DOI: 10.1063/5.0166803.

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