Glossary – System Science

SYSTEM SCIENCE is a scientific method that uses the perspective of the whole organism.

– sees the Whole and the Parts,
– recognizes the importance of the information flow (SIGNALING) among the Parts,
– and analyzes the history (EMERGENCE) of the patterns of information flow throughout the Whole during the LIFE COURSE

A COMPLEX SYSTEM is a collection of things (molecules, biologic cells-tissues, cities, etc) that organize themselves into a collective whole, sharing information and creating PATTERNS.


Kelso JAS.  Dynamic Patterns.  The Self-Organization of Brain and Behavior.  MIT Press.  1999

Cross M, Greenside H.  Pattern Formation and Dynamics in Nonequilibrium Systems.  Cambridge University Press.  2009

Mitchell M.  Complexity – A Guided Tour.  Oxford University Press.  2009

REDUCTIONISM is a  scientific method of analysis that divides the Whole into Parts.
The primary scientific method of biomedicine for the 20th Century was REDUCTIONISM.

Apparent advantages of REDUCTIONISM are that by viewing the Parts as disconnected, it allows greater focus on an individual Part.
Current biomedicine tends to “assign” Diagnoses to one body organ – rather than seeing systemic disease.
However by limiting analysis to individual parts, REDUCTIONISM prevents seeing the connections and flow of SIGNALING among the Whole, ignores REGULATION, and therefore prevents biomedicine from understanding what causes disease and what can prevent or cure disease.
The analytic method of REDUCTIONISM leaves biomedicine considering 80% of Disease as “idiopathic” (no known cause) with a scattered approach to prevention and treatment.

A NETWORK is a connected group of things that share information.

In the body, all cells, tissues and organs are one interconnected biologic NETWORK that continuously send-receive information (SIGNALS).

Biologic NETWORKS are DYNAMIC (PLASTIC) – they grow and change in response to information.

NETWORK THINKING means looking at groups based on the relationships-communication of the parts rather than looking at the parts themselves.


Sporns, O.  Networks of the Brain.  MIT Press. 2011

A biologic SIGNAL is any unit of information sent-received among cells-tissues-organs that causes action.

SIGNALS can be electrical (through nerves) but is more often chemical (hormones and more) or vibrational.

Bidirectional SIGNALING (going back-and-forth) within the body is called CROSSTALK.

An OSCILLATION is an alternation between up-and-down or back-and-forth.


OSCILLATIONS are found everywhere in Nature – and are both the result of SIGNALS and act as the most powerful type of SIGNALS.
OSCILLATIONS act to synchronize the cells, tissues, organs of the body.
ENTRAINMENT is when a stronger OSCILLATION causes other weaker cycles-rhythms to become synchronized.

The LIFE COURSE APPROACH is a scientific method that looks at the experience of a person (or any organism) throughout their life – from conception, through development, to adulthood.

The LIFE COURSE method of understanding disease development (PATHOGENESIS) recognizes the lifelong impact of positive-nurturing early life experiences (leading to RESILIENCE) versus early life ADVERSITY-DEPRIVATION, often leading to failure to develop REGULATORY NETWORKS or system DYSREGULATION resulting in symptoms or disease (physical, mental, social).