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Characterization of chaotic dynamics in the human menstrual cycle

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Author(s): Derry GN | Derry PS

Journal: Nonlinear Biomedical Physics
ISSN 1753-4631

Volume: 4;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 5;
Date: 2010;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background The human menstrual cycle is known to exhibit a significant amount of unexplained variability. This variation is typically dismissed as random fluctuations in an otherwise periodic and predictable system. Given the many delayed nonlinear feedbacks in the multiple levels of the reproductive endocrine system, however, the menstrual cycle can properly be construed as the output of a nonlinear dynamical system, and such a system has the possibility of being in a chaotic trajectory. We hypothesize that this is in fact the case and that it accounts for the observed variability. Results Here, we test this hypothesis by performing time series analyses on data for 7749 menstrual cycles from 40 women in the 20-40 year age range, using the database maintained by the Tremin Research Program on Women's Health. Both raw menstrual cycle length data and a formal time series constructed from this data are utilized in these analyses. Employing phase space reconstruction techniques with a maximum embedding dimension of 12, we find appropriate scaling behavior in the correlation sums for these data, indicating low dimensional deterministic dynamics. A correlation dimension of Dc ≈ 5.2 is measured in the scaling regime. This result is confirmed by recalculation using the Takens estimator and by surrogate data tests. We interpret this result as an approximation to the fractal dimension of a strange attractor governing chaotic dynamics in the menstrual cycle. We also use the time series to calculate the correlation entropy (K2 ≈ 0.008/τ) and the maximal Lyapunov exponent (λ ≈ 0.005/τ) for the system, where τ is the sampling time of the series. Conclusions Taken collectively, these results constitute significant evidence that the menstrual cycle is the result of chaos in a nonlinear dynamical system. This view of the menstrual cycle has potential implications for clinical practice, modelling of the endocrine system, and the interpretation of the perimenopausal transition.
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