Applications of fractal analysis to physiology

R. W. Glenny, H. T. Robertson, S. Yamashiro, J. B. Bassingthwaighte


This review describes approaches to the analysis of fractal properties of physiological observations. Fractals are useful to describe the natural irregularity of physiological systems because their irregularity is not truly random and can be demonstrated to have spatial or temporal correlation. The concepts of fractal analysis are introduced from intuitive, visual, and mathematical perspectives. The regional heterogeneities of pulmonary and myocardial flows are discussed as applications of spatial fractal analysis, and methods for estimating a fractal dimension from physiological data are presented. Although the methods used for fractal analyses of physiological data are still under development and will require additional validation, they appear to have great potential for the study of physiology at scales of resolution ranging from the microcirculation to the intact organism.