Reduced complexity of activity patterns in patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: a case control study
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ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is an illness characterised by pervasive physical and mental fatigue without specific identified pathological changes. Many patients with CFS show reduced physical activity which, though quantifiable, has yielded little information to date. Nonlinear dynamic analysis of physiological data can be used to measure complexity in terms of dissimilarity within timescales and similarity across timescales. A reduction in these objective measures has been associated with disease and ageing. We aimed to test the hypothesis that activity patterns of patients with CFS would show reduced complexity compared to healthy controls. METHODS: We analysed continuous activity data over 12 days from 42 patients with CFS and 21 matched healthy controls. We estimated complexity in two ways, measuring dissimilarity within timescales by calculating entropy after a symbolic dynamic transformation of the data and similarity across timescales by calculating the fractal dimension using allometric aggregation. RESULTS: CFS cases showed reduced complexity compared to controls, as evidenced by reduced dissimilarity within timescales (mean (SD) Renyi(3) entropy 4.05 (0.21) vs. 4.30 (0.09), t = -6.6, p < 0.001) and reduced similarity across timescales (fractal dimension 1.19 (0.04) vs. 1.14 (0.04), t = 4.2, p < 0.001). This reduction in complexity persisted after adjustment for total activity. CONCLUSION: Patients with CFS show evidence of reduced complexity of activity patterns. Measures of complexity applied to activity have potential value as objective indicators for CFS.