Human motor activity has a robust, intrinsic fractal structure with similar patterns from minutes to hours. The fractal activity patterns appear to be physiologically important because the patterns persist under different environmental conditions but are significantly altered/reduced with aging and Alzheimer's disease (AD). Here, we report that dementia patients, known to have disrupted circadian rhythmicity, also have disrupted fractal activity patterns and that the disruption is more pronounced inpatients with more amyloid plaques (a marker of AD severity). Moreover, the degree of fractal activity disruption is strongly associated with vasopressinergic and neurotensinergic neurons (two major circadian neurotransmitters) in postmortem suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), and can better predict changes of the two neurotransmitters than traditional circadian measures. These findings suggest that the SCN impacts human activity regulation at multiple time scales and that disrupted fractal activity may serve as a non-invasive biomarker of SCN neurodegeneration in dementia.
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