Previous experimental results have suggested the existence of a local cardiac reflex in the rat. In this study, the putative role of such a local reflex in cardiovascular regulation is quantitatively analyzed. A model for the local reflex is developed from anatomical experimental results and physiological data in the literature. Using this model, a systems-level analysis is conducted. Simulation results indicate that the neuromodulatory mechanism of the local reflex attenuates the nonlinearity of the relationship between cardiac vagal drive and arterial pressure. This behavior is characterized through coherence analysis. Furthermore, the modulation of phase-related characteristics of the cardiovascular system is suggested as a plausible mechanism for the nonlinear attenuation. Based on these results, it is plausible that the functional role of the local reflex is highly robust nonlinear compensation at the heart, which results in less complex dynamics in other parts of the reflex.

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