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PLoS One. 2008 Apr 30;3(4):e2050. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002050.

Of mice and men--universality and breakdown of behavioral organization.

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The Center for Advanced Medical Engineering and Informatics, Osaka University, Osaka, Japan.


Mental or cognitive brain functions, and the effect on them of abnormal psychiatric diseases, are difficult to approach through molecular biological techniques due to the lack of appropriate assay systems with objective measures. We therefore study laws of behavioral organization, specifically how resting and active periods are interwoven throughout daily life, using objective criteria, and first discover that identical laws hold both for healthy humans subject to the full complexity of daily life, and wild-type mice subject to maximum environmental constraints. We find that active period durations with physical activity counts successively above a predefined threshold, when rescaled with individual means, follow a universal stretched exponential (gamma-type) cumulative distribution, while resting period durations below the threshold obey a universal power-law cumulative distribution with identical parameter values for both of the mammalian species. Further, by analyzing the behavioral organization of mice with a circadian clock gene (Period2) eliminated, and humans suffering from major depressive disorders, we find significantly lower parameter values (power-law scaling exponents) for the resting period durations in both these cases. Such a universality and breakdown of the behavioral organization of mice and humans, revealed through objective measures, is expected to facilitate the understanding of the molecular basis of the pathophysiology of neurobehavioral diseases, including depression, and lay the foundations for formulating a range of neuropsychiatric behavioral disorder models.

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