The old model of the body was a single organ, the brain, ran everything. All body sensors ran up to the brain, which decided how to react. But the body’s organs may be talking directly to each other. In fact, they may be singing.
It’s a field called the human physiolome, network physiology, spearheaded by Plamen Ivanov of Boston University and Harvard Medical school. What he’s found so far is that the human heart and lungs are extremely flexible, adapting to each other’s rhythms. In a healthy interaction, the heart and lungs react to each other very quickly but maintain a time delay stability from reaction to reaction. They’re like jazz musicians, anticipating when the proper time is to come in and do their part.
When the time delay isn’t honored, bad things happen. People with sleep apnea don’t have a time delay. The heart and lungs seem to be working at random. So an early benefit of Ivanov’s research is showing that sleep apnea can be predicted from heart monitoring at home rather than going to a sleep clinic for lung monitoring.
But it isn’t just apnea patients with issues. All of us have issues with our rhythms during sleep. The deeper the sleep, the poorer our coordination. People who were woken up before they finished their sleep showed poorer coordination in the morning. Ivanov thinks this may help predict why more heart attacks occur in the morning.