An information hypothesis for the evolution of homeostasis

H. Arthur Woods, J. Keaton Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


A prevailing view among physiologists is that homeostasis evolves to protect organisms from damaging variation in physiological factors. Here, we propose that homeostasis also evolves to minimize noise in physiological channels. Fluctuations in physiological factors constitute inescapable noise that corrupts the transfer of information through physiological systems. We apply information theory to homeostasis to develop two related ideas. First, homeostatic regulation creates quiet physiological backgrounds for the transmission of all kinds of physiological information. Second, the performance of any homeostatic system influences information processing in other homeostatic systems. This dependence implies that multiple homeostatic systems, embedded within individual organisms, should show strongly nonadditive effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-289
Number of pages7
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Communication
  • Emergent properties
  • Entropy
  • Homeostasis
  • Information theory
  • Metazoa
  • Noise
  • Physiology
  • Private channels
  • Regulation
  • Signal processing


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