Is temporo-spatial dynamics the “common currency” of brain and mind? In Quest of “Spatiotemporal Neuroscience”

Georg Northoff, Soren Wainio-Theberge, Kathinka Evers

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

112 Citations (Scopus)


Neuroscience has made considerable progress in unraveling the neural correlates of mental phenomena like self, consciousness, and perception. However, the “common currency” shared between neuronal and mental activity, brain and mind, remains yet unclear. In this article, we propose that the dynamics of time and space provides a “common currency” that connects neuronal and mental features. Time and space are here understood in a dynamic context (as in contemporary physics): that is, in terms of the way the brain's spontaneous activity constructs its spatial and temporal relationships, for instance in terms of functional connectivity and different frequencies of fluctuations. Recruiting recent empirical evidence, we show that the different ways in which the spontaneous activity constructs its “inner time and space” are manifested in distinct mental features. Specifically, we demonstrate how spatiotemporal mechanisms like spatiotemporal repertoire, integration, and speed yield mental features like consciousness, self, and time speed perception. The focus on the brain's spatiotemporal mechanisms entails what we describe as “Spatiotemporal Neuroscience”. Spatiotemporal Neuroscience conceives neuronal activity in terms of its temporo-spatial dynamics rather than its various functions (e.g., cognitive, affective, social, etc.) as in other branches of neuroscience (as distinguished from Cognitive, Affective, Cultural, Social, etc. Neuroscience). That allows Spatiotemporal Neuroscience to take into view the so-called ‘spatio-temporality’ of mental features including their non-causal, intrinsic and transformative relationship with neuronal features. In conclusion, Spatiotemporal Neuroscience opens the door to investigate and ultimately reveal the brain's own temporo-spatial dynamics as the hitherto missing “common currency” of neuronal and mental features.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-54
Number of pages21
JournalPhysics of Life Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Dynamics
  • Mental features
  • Neuroscience
  • Physics
  • Time and space
  • “Common currency”

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Artificial Intelligence


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