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J Theor Biol. 2011 May 21;277(1):41-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2011.02.013. Epub 2011 Feb 24.

Neural control of heart rate: the role of neuronal networking.

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Department of Engineering Mathematics, Dalhousie University, PO Box 1000, Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Neural control of heart rate, particularly its sympathetic component, is generally thought to reside primarily in the central nervous system, though accumulating evidence suggests that intrathoracic extracardiac and intrinsic cardiac ganglia are also involved. We propose an integrated model in which the control of heart rate is achieved via three neuronal "levels" representing three control centers instead of the conventional one. Most importantly, in this model control is effected through networking between neuronal populations within and among these layers. The results obtained indicate that networking serves to process demands for systemic blood flow before transducing them to cardiac motor neurons. This provides the heart with a measure of protection against the possibility of "overdrive" implied by the currently held centrally driven system. The results also show that localized networking instabilities can lead to sporadic low frequency oscillations that have the characteristics of the well-known Mayer waves. The sporadic nature of Mayer waves has been unexplained so far and is of particular interest in clinical diagnosis.

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