Advantages and problems of nonlinear methods applied to analyze physiological time signals: human balance control as an example

Sci Rep. 2017 May 26;7(1):2464. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-02665-5.


Physiological processes are regulated by nonlinear dynamical systems. Various nonlinear measures have frequently been used for characterizing the complexity of fractal time signals to detect system features that cannot be derived from linear analyses. We analysed human balance dynamics ranging from simple standing to balancing on one foot with closed eyes to study the inherent methodological problems when applying fractal dimension analysis to real-world signals. Higuchi dimension was used as an example. Choice of measurement and analysis parameters has a distinct influence on the computed dimension. Noise increases the fractional dimension which may be misinterpreted as a higher complexity of the signal. Publications without specifying the parameter setting, or without analysing the noise-sensitivity are not comparable to findings of others and therefore of limited scientific value.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms*
  • Feedback, Sensory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fractals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nonlinear Dynamics*
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Time Factors