Information Processing in Living Systems

Gašper Tkačik, William Bialek

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Life depends as much on the flow of information as on the flow of energy. Here we review the many efforts to make this intuition precise. Starting with the building blocks of information theory, we explore examples where it has been possible to measure, directly, the flow of information in biological networks, or more generally where information-theoretic ideas have been used to guide the analysis of experiments. Systems of interest range from single molecules (the sequence diversity in families of proteins) to groups of organisms (the distribution of velocities in flocks of birds), and all scales in between. Many of these analyses are motivated by the idea that biological systems may have evolved to optimize the gathering and representation of information, and we review the experimental evidence for this optimization, again across a wide range of scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-117
Number of pages29
JournalAnnual Review of Condensed Matter Physics
StatePublished - Mar 10 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics


  • Biological networks
  • Gene regulation
  • Information theory
  • Neuroscience
  • Optimality


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