Brain Complexity and Psychiatric Disorders

Ronald Miguel Hernández, Jacqueline Cynthia Ponce-Meza, Miguel Ángel Saavedra-López, Walter Antonio Campos Ugaz, Roxana Monteza Chanduvi, Walter Campos Monteza

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objective: In recent years, researchers and neuroscientists have begun to use a variety of nonlinear techniques for analyzing neurophysiologic signals derived from fMRI, MEG, and EEG in order to describe the complex dynamical aspects of neural mechanisms. In this work, we first attempted to describe different algorithms to estimate neural complexity in a simple manner understandable for psychiatrists, psychologists, and neuroscientists. Then, we reviewed the findings of the brain complexity analysis in psychiatric disorders and their clinical implications. Method: A non-systematic comprehensive literature search was conducted for original studies on the complexity analysis of neurophysiological signals such as electroencephalogram, magnetoencephalogram, and blood-oxygen-level-dependent obtained from functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional near infrared spectroscopy. The search encompassed online scientific databases such as PubMed and Google Scholar. Results: Complexity measures mainly include entropy-based methods, the correlation dimension, fractal dimension, Lempel-Ziv complexity, and the Lyapunov exponent. There are important differences in the physical notions between these measures. Our literature review shows that dementia, autism, and adult ADHD exhibit less complexity in their neurophysiologic signals than healthy controls. However, children with ADHD, drug-naïve young schizophrenic patients with positive symptoms, and patients with mood disorders (i.e., depression and bipolar disorder) exhibit higher complexity in their neurophysiologic signals compared to healthy controls. In addition, contradictory findings still exist in some psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia regarding brain complexity, which can be due to technical issues, large heterogeneity in psychiatric disorders, and interference of typical factors. Conclusion: In summary, complexity analysis may present a new dimension to understanding psychiatric disorders. While complexity analysis is still far from having practical applications in routine clinical settings, complexity science can play an important role in comprehending the system dynamics of psychiatric disorders.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)493-502
Number of pages10
JournalIranian Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number4
StateIndexed - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Tehran University of Medical Sciences. Published by Tehran University of Medical Sciences.


  • Brain
  • Complexity Analysis
  • Neuropathology
  • Psychiatric Disorders


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