Distributions of autocorrelated first-order kinetic outcomes: Illness severity

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6 Scopus citations


Many complex systems produce outcomes having recurring, power law-like distributions over wide ranges. However, the form necessarily breaks down at extremes, whereas the Weibull distribution has been demonstrated over the full observed range. Here the Weibull distribution is derived as the asymptotic distribution of generalized first-order kinetic processes, with convergence driven by autocorrelation, and entropy maximization subject to finite positive mean, of the incremental compounding rates. Process increments represent multiplicative causes. In particular, illness severities are modeled as such, occurring in proportion to products of, e.g., chronic toxicant fractions passed by organs along a pathway, or rates of interacting oncogenic mutations. The Weibull form is also argued theoretically and by simulation to be robust to the onset of saturation kinetics. The Weibull exponential parameter is shown to indicate the number and widths of the first-order compounding increments, the extent of rate autocorrelation, and the degree to which process increments are distributed exponential. In contrast with the Gaussian result in linear independent systems, the form is driven not by independence and multiplicity of process increments, but by increment autocorrelation and entropy. In some physical systems the form may be attracting, due to multiplicative evolution of outcome magnitudes towards extreme values potentially much larger and smaller than control mechanisms can contain. The Weibull distribution is demonstrated in preference to the lognormal and Pareto I for illness severities versus (a) toxicokinetic models, (b) biologically-based network models, (c) scholastic and psychological test score data for children with prenatal mercury exposure, and (d) time-to-tumor data of the ED01 study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0129042
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 10 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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