Human physiology or biological functioning exhibits fractal or irregular patterns. When heart rate, (or respiration rate, blood pressure, brain waves and even walking stride length) begins to lose its fractal dimension or there is a loss of heartbeat variability, this is an indication of illness. In order to respond best to environmental circumstances, adaptative variability (not homeostasis) is what organisms strive toward. Measuring therefore the decline in heart rate variability over time can serve as a clinically effective biomarker for the onset of disease, for example, the onset of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), one of the leading causes of hospitalizations and re-hospitalizations.
During this 20 minute interview Professor Palmer explains briefly the science behind what explains heart rate variability and variability more generally in biological functioning, what are the clinical or health care or clinical applications for this research, his research to avoid COPD hospitalizations and the onset of infection for leukemia patients, the larger implications of this research work and receptivity toward this different paradigm in understanding biological functioning and disease progression.
Dr. James Palmer is an Assistant Professor in Family Medicine at the University of Colorado's Anshuyltz Medical Campus in Denver. His research concerns testing and developing the use of heart rate interval dynamics as an actionable prognostic biomarker for earlier detection and diagnosis COPD exacerbation. Dr. Palmer also has an independent professional practice that designs applications of complexity sciences to improve clinical care processes and outcomes. His work has helped to develop and implement healthcare improvement projects both in the US and Canada. Dr. Palmer completed his Doctor of Management in 2007 at the Complexity and Management Centre, University of Hertfordshire, UK. He was also educated as an economist at the University of Chicago (MA) and Texas Christian University (BA).
For a review of the theory behind and applications for monitoring variability see, for example, Andrew JE Seely, et al. "Continuous Multiorgan Variability Monitoring in Critically Ill Patients - Complexity at the Bedside," at: http://www.therapeuticmonitoring.com/files/IEEE-CIMVA-paper_Boston_Sep-2011.pdf