Research by Yohsiharu Yamamoto of the University of Tokyo, via the Physical Review Letters and The Economist, has shown that the movements of people suffering from clinical depression can be described by a power law.
So different are they from their “normal” counterparts that the discovery looks truly diagnostic, according to The Economist. Subjects were fitted with accelerometers to monitor their movements and how they took rest.
The basic results confirmed a known feature of depressed people. The normal daily rhythm that would lead to a high, steady number of counts during daylight hours and low counts during the night was replaced by occasional bursts of activity. The surprise came when the team started plotting their results out on graphs.
The curves produced by plotting the lengths of low-activity periods against their frequency were strikingly different in healthy and depressed people. This reflects not inactivity by the depressed (though they were, indeed, less active) but a difference in the way that the healthy and the depressed spread their resting periods over the day. Depressed people experience longer resting periods more frequently and shorter ones less frequently than healthy people do.”
It makes sense that the depressed person, while in a state of mental injury and stress, would be naturally modulating their activity with more rest. Perhaps this is the body’s built-in recovery mechanism at work? It reminds me of the principles of recovery-based training; we sometimes need to dance slower to the rhythms of life in order to improve our performance overall.
But perhaps modern working environments require too much consistency of pace? Should we all be adopting more “creative”, flexible cycles of activity? Art de Vany argues forcefully that we are designed for a hunter-gatherer past in which intensive activity was followed by long periods of relaxation. Worth raising at the next management meeting, eh?
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