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Fixational eye movements show scaling behaviour of the positional mean-squared displacement with a characteristic transition from persistence to antipersistence for increasing time-lag. These statistical patterns were found to be mainly shaped by microsaccades (fast, small-amplitude movements). However, our re-analysis of fixational eye-movement data provides evidence that the slow component (physiological drift) of the eyes exhibits scaling behaviour of the mean-squared displacement that varies across human participants. These results suggest that drift is a correlated movement that interacts with microsaccades. Moreover, on the long time scale, the mean-squared displacement of the drift shows oscillations, which is also present in the displacement auto-correlation function. This finding lends support to the presence of time-delayed feedback in the control of drift movements. Based on an earlier non-linear delayed feedback model of fixational eye movements, we propose and discuss different versions of a new model that combines a self-avoiding walk with time delay. As a result, we identify a model that reproduces oscillatory correlation functions, the transition from persistence to antipersistence, and microsaccades.

We investigate the ensemble and time averaged mean squared displacements for particle diffusion in a simple model for disordered media by assuming that the local diffusivity is both fluctuating in time and has a deterministic average growth or decay in time. In this study we compare computer simulations of the stochastic Langevin equation for this random diffusion process with analytical results. We explore the regimes of normal Brownian motion as well as anomalous diffusion in the sub- and superdiffusive regimes. We also consider effects of the inertial term on the particle motion. The investigation of the resulting diffusion is performed for unconfined and confined motion.

Modern microscopic techniques following the stochastic motion of labelled tracer particles have uncovered significant deviations from the laws of Brownian motion in a variety of animate and inanimate systems. Such anomalous diffusion can have different physical origins, which can be identified from careful data analysis. In particular, single particle tracking provides the entire trajectory of the traced particle, which allows one to evaluate different observables to quantify the dynamics of the system under observation. We here provide an extensive overview over different popular anomalous diffusion models and their properties. We pay special attention to their ergodic properties, highlighting the fact that in several of these models the long time averaged mean squared displacement shows a distinct disparity to the regular, ensemble averaged mean squared displacement. In these cases, data obtained from time averages cannot be interpreted by the standard theoretical results for the ensemble averages. Here we therefore provide a comparison of the main properties of the time averaged mean squared displacement and its statistical behaviour in terms of the scatter of the amplitudes between the time averages obtained from different trajectories. We especially demonstrate how anomalous dynamics may be identified for systems, which, on first sight, appear to be Brownian. Moreover, we discuss the ergodicity breaking parameters for the different anomalous stochastic processes and showcase the physical origins for the various behaviours. This Perspective is intended as a guidebook for both experimentalists and theorists working on systems, which exhibit anomalous diffusion.

In various biological systems and small scale technological applications particles transiently bind to a cylindrical surface. Upon unbinding the particles diffuse in the vicinal bulk before rebinding to the surface. Such bulk-mediated excursions give rise to an effective surface translation, for which we here derive and discuss the dynamic equations, including additional surface diffusion. We discuss the time evolution of the number of surface-bound particles, the effective surface mean squared displacement, and the surface propagator. In particular, we observe sub- and superdiffusive regimes. A plateau of the surface mean-squared displacement reflects a stalling of the surface diffusion at longer times. Finally, the corresponding first passage problem for the cylindrical geometry is analysed.

Quorum-sensing bacteria in a growing colony of cells send out signalling molecules (so-called “autoinducers”) and themselves sense the autoinducer concentration in their vicinity. Once—due to increased local cell density inside a “cluster” of the growing colony—the concentration of autoinducers exceeds a threshold value, cells in this clusters get “induced” into a communal, multi-cell biofilm-forming mode in a cluster-wide burst event. We analyse quantitatively the influence of spatial disorder, the local heterogeneity of the spatial distribution of cells in the colony, and additional physical parameters such as the autoinducer signal range on the induction dynamics of the cell colony. Spatial inhomogeneity with higher local cell concentrations in clusters leads to earlier but more localised induction events, while homogeneous distributions lead to comparatively delayed but more concerted induction of the cell colony, and, thus, a behaviour close to the mean-field dynamics. We quantify the induction dynamics with quantifiers such as the time series of induction events and burst sizes, the grouping into induction families, and the mean autoinducer concentration levels. Consequences for different scenarios of biofilm growth are discussed, providing possible cues for biofilm control in both health care and biotechnology.

We show that the codifference is a useful tool in studying the ergodicity breaking and non-Gaussianity properties of stochastic time series. While the codifference is a measure of dependence that was previously studied mainly in the context of stable processes, we here extend its range of applicability to random-parameter and diffusing-diffusivity models which are important in contemporary physics, biology and financial engineering. We prove that the codifference detects forms of dependence and ergodicity breaking which are not visible from analysing the covariance and correlation functions. We also discuss a related measure of dispersion, which is a nonlinear analogue of the mean squared displacement.

Based on extensive Monte Carlo simulations and analytical considerations we study the electrostatically driven adsorption of flexible polyelectrolyte chains onto charged Janus nanospheres. These net-neutral colloids are composed of two equally but oppositely charged hemispheres. The critical binding conditions for polyelectrolyte chains are analysed as function of the radius of the Janus particle and its surface charge density, as well as the salt concentration in the ambient solution. Specifically for the adsorption of finite-length polyelectrolyte chains onto Janus nanoparticles, we demonstrate that the critical adsorption conditions drastically differ when the size of the Janus particle or the screening length of the electrolyte are varied. We compare the scaling laws obtained for the adsorption–desorption threshold to the known results for uniformly charged spherical particles, observing significant disparities. We also contrast the changes to the polyelectrolyte chain conformations close to the surface of the Janus nanoparticles as compared to those for simple spherical particles. Finally, we discuss experimentally relevant physico-chemical systems for which our simulations results may become important. In particular, we observe similar trends with polyelectrolyte complexation with oppositely but heterogeneously charged proteins.

We study the adsorption–desorption transition of polyelectrolyte chains onto planar, cylindrical and spherical surfaces with arbitrarily high surface charge densities by massive Monte Carlo computer simulations. We examine in detail how the well known scaling relations for the threshold transition—demarcating the adsorbed and desorbed domains of a polyelectrolyte near weakly charged surfaces—are altered for highly charged interfaces. In virtue of high surface potentials and large surface charge densities, the Debye–Hückel approximation is often not feasible and the nonlinear Poisson–Boltzmann approach should be implemented. At low salt conditions, for instance, the electrostatic potential from the nonlinear Poisson–Boltzmann equation is smaller than the Debye–Hückel result, such that the required critical surface charge density for polyelectrolyte adsorption σc increases. The nonlinear relation between the surface charge density and electrostatic potential leads to a sharply increasing critical surface charge density with growing ionic strength, imposing an additional limit to the critical salt concentration above which no polyelectrolyte adsorption occurs at all. We contrast our simulations findings with the known scaling results for weak critical polyelectrolyte adsorption onto oppositely charged surfaces for the three standard geometries. Finally, we discuss some applications of our results for some physical–chemical and biophysical systems.

Abstract
The emerging diffusive dynamics in many complex systems show a characteristic crossover behaviour from anomalous to normal diffusion which is otherwise fitted by two independent power-laws. A prominent example for a subdiffusive–diffusive crossover are viscoelastic systems such as lipid bilayer membranes, while superdiffusive–diffusive crossovers occur in systems of actively moving biological cells. We here consider the general dynamics of a stochastic particle driven by so-called tempered fractional Gaussian noise, that is noise with Gaussian amplitude and power-law correlations, which are cut off at some mesoscopic time scale. Concretely we consider such noise with built-in exponential or power-law tempering, driving an overdamped Langevin equation (fractional Brownian motion) and fractional Langevin equation motion. We derive explicit expressions for the mean squared displacement and correlation functions, including different shapes of the crossover behaviour depending on the concrete tempering, and discuss the physical meaning of the tempering. In the case of power-law tempering we also find a crossover behaviour from faster to slower superdiffusion and slower to faster subdiffusion. As a direct application of our model we demonstrate that the obtained dynamics quantitatively describes the subdiffusion–diffusion and subdiffusion–subdiffusion crossover in lipid bilayer systems. We also show that a model of tempered fractional Brownian motion recently proposed by Sabzikar and Meerschaert leads to physically very different behaviour with a seemingly paradoxical ballistic long time scaling.

Diffusion of finite-size particles in two-dimensional channels with random wall configurations
(2014)

Diffusion of chemicals or tracer molecules through complex systems containing irregularly shaped channels is important in many applications. Most theoretical studies based on the famed Fick–Jacobs equation focus on the idealised case of infinitely small particles and reflecting boundaries. In this study we use numerical simulations to consider the transport of finite-size particles through asymmetrical two-dimensional channels. Additionally, we examine transient binding of the molecules to the channel walls by applying sticky boundary conditions. We consider an ensemble of particles diffusing in independent channels, which are characterised by common structural parameters. We compare our results for the long-time effective diffusion coefficient with a recent theoretical formula obtained by Dagdug and Pineda [J. Chem. Phys., 2012, 137, 024107].

Effects of the target aspect ratio and intrinsic reactivity onto diffusive search in bounded domains
(2017)

We study the mean first passage time (MFPT) to a reaction event on a specific site in a cylindrical geometry—characteristic, for instance, for bacterial cells, with a concentric inner cylinder representing the nuclear region of the bacterial cell. Asimilar problem emerges in the description of a diffusive search by a transcription factor protein for a specific binding region on a single strand of DNA.We develop a unified theoretical approach to study the underlying boundary value problem which is based on a self-consistent approximation of the mixed boundary condition. Our approach permits us to derive explicit, novel, closed-form expressions for the MFPT valid for a generic setting with an arbitrary relation between the system parameters.Weanalyse this general result in the asymptotic limits appropriate for the above-mentioned biophysical problems. Our investigation reveals the crucial role of the target aspect ratio and of the intrinsic reactivity of the binding region, which were disregarded in previous studies. Theoretical predictions are confirmed by numerical simulations.

For both Lévy flight and Lévy walk search processes we analyse the full distribution of first-passage and first-hitting (or first-arrival) times. These are, respectively, the times when the particle moves across a point at some given distance from its initial position for the first time, or when it lands at a given point for the first time. For Lévy motions with their propensity for long relocation events and thus the possibility to jump across a given point in space without actually hitting it ('leapovers'), these two definitions lead to significantly different results. We study the first-passage and first-hitting time distributions as functions of the Lévy stable index, highlighting the different behaviour for the cases when the first absolute moment of the jump length distribution is finite or infinite. In particular we examine the limits of short and long times. Our results will find their application in the mathematical modelling of random search processes as well as computer algorithms.

Fractional Brownian motion (FBM) is a Gaussian stochastic process with stationary, long-time correlated increments and is frequently used to model anomalous diffusion processes. We study numerically FBM confined to a finite interval with reflecting boundary conditions. The probability density function of this reflected FBM at long times converges to a stationary distribution showing distinct deviations from the fully flat distribution of amplitude 1/L in an interval of length L found for reflected normal Brownian motion. While for superdiffusion, corresponding to a mean squared displacement (MSD) 〈X² (t)〉 ⋍ tᵅ with 1 < α < 2, the probability density function is lowered in the centre of the interval and rises towards the boundaries, for subdiffusion (0 < α < 1) this behaviour is reversed and the particle density is depleted close to the boundaries. The MSD in these cases at long times converges to a stationary value, which is, remarkably, monotonically increasing with the anomalous diffusion exponent α. Our a priori surprising results may have interesting consequences for the application of FBM for processes such as molecule or tracer diffusion in the confines of living biological cells or organelles, or other viscoelastic environments such as dense liquids in microfluidic chambers.

In the scenario of the narrow escape problem (NEP) a particle diffuses in a finite container and eventually leaves it through a small 'escape window' in the otherwise impermeable boundary, once it arrives to this window and crosses an entropic barrier at the entrance to it. This generic problem is mathematically identical to that of a diffusion-mediated reaction with a partially-reactive site on the container's boundary. Considerable knowledge is available on the dependence of the mean first-reaction time (FRT) on the pertinent parameters. We here go a distinct step further and derive the full FRT distribution for the NEP. We demonstrate that typical FRTs may be orders of magnitude shorter than the mean one, thus resulting in a strong defocusing of characteristic temporal scales. We unveil the geometry-control of the typical times, emphasising the role of the initial distance to the target as a decisive parameter. A crucial finding is the further FRT defocusing due to the barrier, necessitating repeated escape or reaction attempts interspersed with bulk excursions. These results add new perspectives and offer a broad comprehension of various features of the by-now classical NEP that are relevant for numerous biological and technological systems.

We investigate the ergodic properties of a random walker performing (anomalous) diffusion on a random fractal geometry. Extensive Monte Carlo simulations of the motion of tracer particles on an ensemble of realisations of percolation clusters are performed for a wide range of percolation densities. Single trajectories of the tracer motion are analysed to quantify the time averaged mean squared displacement (MSD) and to compare this with the ensemble averaged MSD of the particle motion. Other complementary physical observables associated with ergodicity are studied, as well. It turns out that the time averaged MSD of individual realisations exhibits non-vanishing fluctuations even in the limit of very long observation times as the percolation density approaches the critical value. This apparent non-ergodic behaviour concurs with the ergodic behaviour on the ensemble averaged level. We demonstrate how the non-vanishing fluctuations in single particle trajectories are analytically expressed in terms of the fractal dimension and the cluster size distribution of the random geometry, thus being of
purely geometrical origin. Moreover, we reveal that the convergence scaling law to ergodicity, which is known to be inversely proportional to the observation time T for ergodic diffusion processes, follows a power-law BT� h with h o 1 due to the fractal structure of the accessible space. These results provide useful measures for differentiating the subdiffusion on random fractals from an otherwise closely related process, namely, fractional Brownian motion. Implications of our results on the analysis of single particle tracking experiments are provided.

What are the physical laws of the mutual interactions of objects bound to cell membranes, such as various membrane proteins or elongated virus particles? To rationalise this, we here investigate by extensive computer simulations mutual interactions of rod-like particles adsorbed on the surface of responsive elastic two-dimensional sheets. Specifically, we quantify sheet deformations as a response to adhesion of such filamentous particles. We demonstrate that tip-to-tip contacts of rods are favoured for relatively soft sheets, while side-by-side contacts are preferred for stiffer elastic substrates. These attractive orientation-dependent substrate-mediated interactions between the rod-like particles on responsive sheets can drive their aggregation and self-assembly. The optimal orientation of the membrane-bound rods is established via responding to the elastic energy profiles created around the particles. We unveil the phase diagramme of attractive–repulsive rod–rod interactions in the plane of their separation and mutual orientation. Applications of our results to other systems featuring membrane-associated particles are also discussed.

What are the fundamental laws for the adsorption of charged polymers onto oppositely charged surfaces, for convex, planar, and concave geometries? This question is at the heart of surface coating applications, various complex formation phenomena, as well as in the context of cellular and viral biophysics. It has been a long-standing challenge in theoretical polymer physics; for realistic systems the quantitative understanding is however often achievable only by computer simulations. In this study, we present the findings of such extensive Monte-Carlo in silico experiments for polymer–surface adsorption in confined domains. We study the inverted critical adsorption of finite-length polyelectrolytes in three fundamental geometries: planar slit, cylindrical pore, and spherical cavity. The scaling relations extracted from simulations for the critical surface charge density sc—defining the adsorption–desorption transition—are in excellent agreement with our analytical calculations based on the ground-state analysis of the Edwards equation. In particular, we confirm the magnitude and scaling of sc for the concave interfaces versus the Debye screening length 1/k and the extent of confinement a for these three interfaces for small ka values. For large ka the critical adsorption condition approaches the known planar limit. The transition between the two regimes takes place when the radius of surface curvature or half of the slit thickness a is of the order of 1/k. We also rationalize how sc(k) dependence gets modified for semi-flexible versus flexible chains under external confinement. We examine the implications of the chain length for critical adsorption—the effect often hard to tackle theoretically—putting an emphasis on polymers inside attractive spherical cavities. The applications of our findings to some biological systems are discussed, for instance the adsorption of nucleic acids onto the inner surfaces of cylindrical and spherical viral capsids.

The looping of polymers such as DNA is a fundamental process in the molecular biology of living cells, whose interior is characterised by a high degree of molecular crowding. We here investigate in detail the looping dynamics of flexible polymer chains in the presence of different degrees of crowding. From the analysis of the looping–unlooping rates and the looping probabilities of the chain ends we show that the presence of small crowders typically slows down the chain dynamics but larger crowders may in fact facilitate the looping. We rationalise these non-trivial and often counterintuitive effects of the crowder size on the looping kinetics in terms of an effective solution viscosity and standard excluded volume. It is shown that for small crowders the effect of an increased viscosity dominates, while for big crowders we argue that confinement effects (caging) prevail. The tradeoff between both trends can thus result in the impediment or facilitation of polymer looping, depending on the crowder size. We also examine how the crowding volume fraction, chain length, and the attraction strength of the contact groups of the polymer chain affect the looping kinetics and hairpin formation dynamics. Our results are relevant for DNA looping in the absence and presence of protein mediation, DNA hairpin formation, RNA folding, and the folding of polypeptide chains under biologically relevant high-crowding conditions.

Molecular motors pulling cargos in the viscoelastic cytosol: how power strokes beat subdiffusion
(2014)

The discovery of anomalous diffusion of larger biopolymers and submicron tracers such as endogenous granules, organelles, or virus capsids in living cells, attributed to the viscoelastic nature of the cytoplasm, provokes the question whether this complex environment equally impacts the active intracellular transport of submicron cargos by molecular motors such as kinesins: does the passive anomalous diffusion of free cargo always imply its anomalously slow active transport by motors, the mean transport distance along microtubule growing sublinearly rather than linearly in time? Here we analyze this question within the widely used two-state Brownian ratchet model of kinesin motors based on the continuous-state diffusion along microtubules driven by a flashing binding potential, where the cargo particle is elastically attached to the motor. Depending on the cargo size, the loading force, the amplitude of the binding potential, the turnover frequency of the molecular motor enzyme, and the linker stiffness we demonstrate that the motor transport may turn out either normal or anomalous, as indeed measured experimentally. We show how a highly efficient normal active transport mediated by motors may emerge despite the passive anomalous diffusion of the cargo, and study the intricate effects of the elastic linker. Under different, well specified conditions the microtubule-based motor transport becomes anomalously slow and thus significantly less efficient.

We study the diffusion of a tracer particle, which moves in continuum space between a lattice of excluded volume, immobile non-inert obstacles. In particular, we analyse how the strength of the tracer–obstacle interactions and the volume occupancy of the crowders alter the diffusive motion of the tracer. From the details of partitioning of the tracer diffusion modes between trapping states when bound to obstacles and bulk diffusion, we examine the degree of localisation of the tracer in the lattice of crowders. We study the properties of the tracer diffusion in terms of the ensemble and time averaged mean squared displacements, the trapping time distributions, the amplitude variation of the time averaged mean squared displacements, and the non-Gaussianity parameter of the diffusing tracer. We conclude that tracer–obstacle adsorption and binding triggers a transient anomalous diffusion. From a very narrow spread of recorded individual time averaged trajectories we exclude continuous type random walk processes as the underlying physical model of the tracer diffusion in our system. For moderate tracer–crowder attraction the motion is found to be fully ergodic, while at stronger attraction strength a transient disparity between ensemble and time averaged mean squared displacements occurs. We also put our results into perspective with findings from experimental single-particle tracking and simulations of the diffusion of tagged tracers in dense crowded suspensions. Our results have implications for the diffusion, transport, and spreading of chemical components in highly crowded environments inside living cells and other structured liquids.