Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Hierarchy


MeSH® is a controlled vocabulary for indexing and searching biomedical literature. MeSH terms and subheadings are organized in a hierarchical structure and are used to indicate the topics of an article. Biologists can use either MeSH terms as queries or the MeSH interface provided in PubMed® for searching PubMed abstracts. However, these are rarely used, and there is no convenient way to link standardized MeSH terms to user queries. Here, we introduce a web interface which allows users to enter queries to find MeSH terms closely related to the queries. Our method relies on co-occurrence of text words and MeSH terms to find keywords that are related to each MeSH term. A query is then matched with the keywords for MeSH terms, and candidate MeSH terms are ranked based on their relatedness to the query. The experimental results show that our method achieves the best performance among several term extraction approaches in terms of topic coherence. Moreover, the interface can be effectively used to find full names of abbreviations and to disambiguate user queries.

Concepts: Structure, Hierarchy, Controlled vocabulary, Java, Topical, Medical Subject Headings, Terminology, Query language


Hierarchical classification (HC) stratifies and classifies data from broad classes into more specific classes. Unlike commonly used data classification strategies, this enables the probabilistic prediction of unknown classes at different levels, minimizing the burden of incomplete databases. Despite these advantages, its translational application in biomedical sciences has been limited. We describe and demonstrate the implementation of a HC approach for “omics-driven” classification of 15 bacterial species at various taxonomic levels achieving 90-100% accuracy, and 9 cancer types into morphological types and 35 subtypes with 99% and 76% accuracy, respectively. Unknown bacterial species were probabilistically assigned with 100% accuracy to their respective genus or family using mass spectra (n = 284). Cancer types were predicted by mRNA data (n = 1960) for most subtypes with 95-100% accuracy. This has high relevance in clinical practice where complete datasets are difficult to compile with the continuous evolution of diseases and emergence of new strains, yet prediction of unknown classes, such as bacterial species, at upper hierarchy levels may be sufficient to initiate antimicrobial therapy. The algorithms presented here can be directly translated into clinical-use with any quantitative data, and have broad application potential, from unlabeled sample identification, to hierarchical feature selection, and discovery of new taxonomic variants.

Concepts: Scientific method, Archaea, Organism, Species, Hierarchy, Data analysis, Taxonomic rank, Biological classification


Planning allows actions to be structured in pursuit of a future goal. However, in natural environments, planning over multiple possible future states incurs prohibitive computational costs. To represent plans efficiently, states can be clustered hierarchically into “contexts”. For example, representing a journey through a subway network as a succession of individual states (stations) is more costly than encoding a sequence of contexts (lines) and context switches (line changes). Here, using functional brain imaging, we asked humans to perform a planning task in a virtual subway network. Behavioral analyses revealed that humans executed a hierarchically organized plan. Brain activity in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and premotor cortex scaled with the cost of hierarchical plan representation and unique neural signals in these regions signaled contexts and context switches. These results suggest that humans represent hierarchical plans using a network of caudal prefrontal structures. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

Concepts: Neuron, Brain, Structure, Hierarchy, Cerebrum, Management, Premotor cortex, Prefrontal cortex


The friendship paradox is the phenomenon that in social networks, people on average have fewer friends than their friends do. The generalized friendship paradox is an extension to attributes other than the number of friends. The friendship paradox and its generalized version have gathered recent attention due to the information they provide about network structure and local inequalities. In this paper, we propose several measures of nodal qualities which capture different aspects of their activities and influence in online social networks. Using these measures we analyse the prevalence of the generalized friendship paradox over Twitter and we report high levels of prevalence (up to over 90% of nodes). We contend that this prevalence of the friendship paradox and its generalized version arise because of the hierarchical nature of the connections in the network. This hierarchy is nested as opposed to being star-like. We conclude that these paradoxes are collective phenomena not created merely by a minority of well-connected or high-attribute nodes. Moreover, our results show that a large fraction of individuals can experience the generalized friendship paradox even in the absence of a significant correlation between degrees and attributes.

Concepts: Structure, Hierarchy, Sociology, Social network, Friendship paradox


Hierarchical organization-the recursive composition of sub-modules-is ubiquitous in biological networks, including neural, metabolic, ecological, and genetic regulatory networks, and in human-made systems, such as large organizations and the Internet. To date, most research on hierarchy in networks has been limited to quantifying this property. However, an open, important question in evolutionary biology is why hierarchical organization evolves in the first place. It has recently been shown that modularity evolves because of the presence of a cost for network connections. Here we investigate whether such connection costs also tend to cause a hierarchical organization of such modules. In computational simulations, we find that networks without a connection cost do not evolve to be hierarchical, even when the task has a hierarchical structure. However, with a connection cost, networks evolve to be both modular and hierarchical, and these networks exhibit higher overall performance and evolvability (i.e. faster adaptation to new environments). Additional analyses confirm that hierarchy independently improves adaptability after controlling for modularity. Overall, our results suggest that the same force-the cost of connections-promotes the evolution of both hierarchy and modularity, and that these properties are important drivers of network performance and adaptability. In addition to shedding light on the emergence of hierarchy across the many domains in which it appears, these findings will also accelerate future research into evolving more complex, intelligent computational brains in the fields of artificial intelligence and robotics.

Concepts: Genetics, Evolution, Biology, Structure, Hierarchy, Evolutionary biology, Government, Charles Darwin


Very little is known about Neanderthal cultures, particularly early ones. Other than lithic implements and exceptional bone tools, very few artefacts have been preserved. While those that do remain include red and black pigments and burial sites, these indications of modernity are extremely sparse and few have been precisely dated, thus greatly limiting our knowledge of these predecessors of modern humans. Here we report the dating of annular constructions made of broken stalagmites found deep in Bruniquel Cave in southwest France. The regular geometry of the stalagmite circles, the arrangement of broken stalagmites and several traces of fire demonstrate the anthropogenic origin of these constructions. Uranium-series dating of stalagmite regrowths on the structures and on burnt bone, combined with the dating of stalagmite tips in the structures, give a reliable and replicated age of 176.5 thousand years (±2.1 thousand years), making these edifices among the oldest known well-dated constructions made by humans. Their presence at 336 metres from the entrance of the cave indicates that humans from this period had already mastered the underground environment, which can be considered a major step in human modernity.

Concepts: Human, Natural environment, Hierarchy, Neanderthal, Cave, Speleothem, Stalagmite, Stalactite


The “cock-a-doodle-doo” crowing of roosters, which symbolizes the break of dawn in many cultures, is controlled by the circadian clock. When one rooster announces the break of dawn, others in the vicinity immediately follow. Chickens are highly social animals, and they develop a linear and fixed hierarchy in small groups. We found that when chickens were housed in small groups, the top-ranking rooster determined the timing of predawn crowing. Specifically, the top-ranking rooster always started to crow first, followed by its subordinates, in descending order of social rank. When the top-ranking rooster was physically removed from a group, the second-ranking rooster initiated crowing. The presence of a dominant rooster significantly reduced the number of predawn crows in subordinates. However, the number of crows induced by external stimuli was independent of social rank, confirming that subordinates have the ability to crow. Although the timing of subordinates' predawn crowing was strongly dependent on that of the top-ranking rooster, free-running periods of body temperature rhythms differed among individuals, and crowing rhythm did not entrain to a crowing sound stimulus. These results indicate that in a group situation, the top-ranking rooster has priority to announce the break of dawn, and that subordinate roosters are patient enough to wait for the top-ranking rooster’s first crow every morning and thus compromise their circadian clock for social reasons.

Concepts: Hypothalamus, Structure, Hierarchy, Sociology, Heterarchy, Social stratification, Rooster


Ongoing declines in the structure and function of the world’s coral reefs require novel approaches to sustain these ecosystems and the millions of people who depend on them. A presently unexplored approach that draws on theory and practice in human health and rural development is to systematically identify and learn from the ‘outliers’-places where ecosystems are substantially better (‘bright spots’) or worse (‘dark spots’) than expected, given the environmental conditions and socioeconomic drivers they are exposed to. Here we compile data from more than 2,500 reefs worldwide and develop a Bayesian hierarchical model to generate expectations of how standing stocks of reef fish biomass are related to 18 socioeconomic drivers and environmental conditions. We identify 15 bright spots and 35 dark spots among our global survey of coral reefs, defined as sites that have biomass levels more than two standard deviations from expectations. Importantly, bright spots are not simply comprised of remote areas with low fishing pressure; they include localities where human populations and use of ecosystem resources is high, potentially providing insights into how communities have successfully confronted strong drivers of change. Conversely, dark spots are not necessarily the sites with the lowest absolute biomass and even include some remote, uninhabited locations often considered near pristine. We surveyed local experts about social, institutional, and environmental conditions at these sites to reveal that bright spots are characterized by strong sociocultural institutions such as customary taboos and marine tenure, high levels of local engagement in management, high dependence on marine resources, and beneficial environmental conditions such as deep-water refuges. Alternatively, dark spots are characterized by intensive capture and storage technology and a recent history of environmental shocks. Our results suggest that investments in strengthening fisheries governance, particularly aspects such as participation and property rights, could facilitate innovative conservation actions that help communities defy expectations of global reef degradation.

Concepts: Present, Ecology, Coral reef, Scleractinia, Natural environment, Hierarchy, Ecosystem, Reef


One of the major challenges in olfaction research is to relate the structural features of the odorants to different features of olfactory system. However, no relationship has been yet discovered between the structure of the olfactory stimulus, and the structure of respiratory signal. This study reveals the plasticity of human respiratory signal in relation to ‘complex’ olfactory stimulus (odorant). We demonstrated that fractal temporal structure of respiration dynamics shifts towards the properties of the odorants used. The results show for the first time that more structurally complex a monomolecular odorant will result in less fractal respiratory signal. On the other hand, odorant with higher entropy will result the respiratory signal with lower entropy. The capability observed in this research can be further investigated and applied for treatment of patients with different respiratory diseases.

Concepts: Structure, Hierarchy, Respiratory system, Olfaction, Olfactory system, System, Odor, Flavor


The spread of infectious diseases at the global scale is mediated by long-range human travel. Our ability to predict the impact of an outbreak on human health requires understanding the spatiotemporal signature of early-time spreading from a specific location. Here, we show that network topology, geography, traffic structure and individual mobility patterns are all essential for accurate predictions of disease spreading. Specifically, we study contagion dynamics through the air transportation network by means of a stochastic agent-tracking model that accounts for the spatial distribution of airports, detailed air traffic and the correlated nature of mobility patterns and waiting-time distributions of individual agents. From the simulation results and the empirical air-travel data, we formulate a metric of influential spreading–the geographic spreading centrality–which accounts for spatial organization and the hierarchical structure of the network traffic, and provides an accurate measure of the early-time spreading power of individual nodes.

Concepts: Scientific method, Epidemiology, Disease, Infectious disease, Human, Structure, Geography, Hierarchy