Nav: Home

New techniques allow medicine to see the whole again

October 29, 2018

Medical diagnoses mostly focuses on resolving isolated issues. But, fixing one problem may create others and even invoke an overall health collapse. Scientists now found a new approach to assess the risks of such collapse in humans and other animals using data from wearable sensors.

Dynamic Indicators of Resilience

Staying alive requires resilience, the capacity to bounce back from perturbations ranging from scares and scratches to falls and flues. Such resilience declines naturally at high age, but is also shaped by genes, lifestyle and life events. Despite all we know about health, measuring its essence - resilience - has remained elusive. Now new mathematical insights allow using the countless micro-recoveries captured by monitoring devices to assess resilience of the whole and thus the risk of health collapse. This comes at a moment when massive data from fitness watches and other sensors are rapidly becoming common, potentially allowing cheap monitoring of resilience. "Surprisingly, the signals we find are similar to those indicating the risk of tipping points in ecosystems such as rainforests." says Marten Scheffer, lead author from Wageningen University. "This may seem strange, but we are coming to understand that it has to do with fundamental laws that rule complex systems as they become unstable".

Tipping points in mood, posture and the whole

While understanding the whole is the biggest challenge, there is also the possibility of collapse of system components. The mood is an example. When resilience of the mood system has been eroded, even minor stressful events can trigger a self-propagating collapse into a depressed state. The Dynamic Indicators of Resilience (DIORs) that have now been discovered are based on changes in the behaviour of system as such a tipping point is near. This allowed researchers to estimate the risk of depression from the pattern of fluctuations in self-reported mood. The same principles turn out to be indicative of the stability of other 'subsystems' of the body such as dynamic posture control of elderly which is related to the risk of falls. Altogether, the new indicators pave the way to measuring resilience of individuals as well as of their intertwined vital subsystems.

Humans and other animals

Not surprisingly the same approach can be used to monitor resilience of animals from continuous data-flows. For instance, herds of thousands of electronically marked dairy cows are routinely providing real-time monitoring of all individuals allowing early detection of deviations that hint at individuals that are not doing well. Also, being able to measure resilience allows much needed research into the mechanisms that shape it.

"Worries about animal health and welfare make it increasingly important to understand resilience of production animals" says co-author Prof. Bas Kemp, animal scientist from Wageningen University. "It is becoming clear that not only genetic make-up and feed composition but also early-life conditions and the establishment of social relationships have an impact on health and survival. However, we do not understand how these factors interact to shape animal resilience. Becoming able to measure resilience objectively is a hugely important step."

"There is a widely felt need of putting the patient back together again." The same is true in the field of human medicine says co-author Prof. Marcel Olde Rikkert, geriatrician at Radboud University Medical Center Nijmegen. "Especially in elderly, decisions such as whether or not to operate require an insight in the resilience of the patient which we are now for the first time able to study using DIORs".
-end-
Publication

Systemic Resilience of Humans and Other Animals. PNAS early online, October 29, 2018.

Wageningen University and Research

Related Health Articles:

Mental health of health care workers in china in hospitals with patients with COVID-19
This survey study of almost 1,300 health care workers in China at 34 hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with COVID-19 reports on their mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress.
Health records pin broad set of health risks on genetic premutation
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marshfield Clinic have found that there may be a much broader health risk to carriers of the FMR1 premutation, with potentially dozens of clinical conditions that can be ascribed directly to carrying it.
Attitudes about health affect how older adults engage with negative health news
To get older adults to pay attention to important health information, preface it with the good news about their health.
Geographic and health system correlates of interprofessional oral health practice
In the current issue of Family Medicine and Community Health (Volume 6, Number 2, 2018, pp.
Bloomberg era's emphasis on 'health in all policies' improved New Yorkers' heart health
From 2002 to 2013, New York City implemented a series of policies prioritizing the public's health in areas beyond traditional healthcare policies and illustrated the potential to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
Youth consider mobile health units a safe place for sexual health services
Mobile health units bring important medical services to communities across the country.
Toddler formulas and milks -- not recommended by health experts -- mislead with health claims
Misleading labeling on formulas and milks marketed as 'toddler drinks' may confuse parents about their healthfulness or necessity, finds a new study by researchers at the NYU College of Global Public Health and the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut.
Women's health has worsened while men's health has improved, trends since 1990 show
Swedish researchers have studied health trends among women and men aged 25-34 from 1990-2014.
Health insurance changes, access to care by patients' mental health status
A research letter published by JAMA Psychiatry examined access to care before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and after the ACA for patients grouped by mental health status using a scale to assess mental illness in epidemiologic studies.
Community health workers lead to better health, lower costs for Medicaid patients
As politicians struggle to solve the nation's healthcare problems, a new study finds a way to improve health and lower costs among Medicaid and uninsured patients.
More Health News and Health Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.