Network Physiology: Mapping Interactions between Complex Physiological Systems
Abstract: The human organism is an integrated network where complex physiological systems, each with its own regulatory mechanisms, continuously interact, and where failure of one system can trigger a breakdown of the entire network. Identifying and quantifying dynamical networks of diverse systems with different types of interactions is a challenge. We propose a framework to probe interactions among diverse systems, and we identify a physiological network. We find that each physiological state is characterized by a specific network structure, demonstrating a robust interplay between network topology and function. Across physiological states, the network undergoes topological transitions associated with fast reorganization of physiological interactions on time scales of a few minutes, indicating high network flexibility in response to perturbations. The proposed system-wide integrative approach may facilitate the development of a new field, Network Physiology.