The total baroreflex arc is the open-loop system relating carotid sinus pressure (CSP) to arterial pressure (AP). The nonlinear dynamics of this system were recently characterized. First, Gaussian white noise CSP stimulation was employed in open-loop conditions in normotensive and hypertensive rats with sectioned vagal and aortic depressor nerves. Nonparametric system identification was then applied to measured CSP and AP to establish a second-order nonlinear Uryson model. The aim in this study was to assess the importance of higher-order nonlinear dynamics via development and evaluation of a third-order nonlinear model of the total arc using the same experimental data. Third-order Volterra and Uryson models were developed by employing nonparametric and parametric identification methods. The R2 values between the AP predicted by the best third-order Volterra model and measured AP in response to Gaussian white noise CSP not utilized in developing the model were 0.69 ± 0.03 and 0.70 ± 0.03 for normotensive and hypertensive rats, respectively. The analogous R2 values for the best third-order Uryson model were 0.71 ± 0.03 and 0.73 ± 0.03. These R2 values were not statistically different from the corresponding values for the previously established second-order Uryson model, which were both 0.71 ± 0.03 (P > 0.1). Furthermore, none of the third-order models predicted well-known nonlinear behaviors including thresholding and saturation better than the second-order Uryson model. Additional experiments suggested that the unexplained AP variance was partly due to higher brain center activity. In conclusion, the second-order Uryson model sufficed to represent the sympathetically mediated total arc under the employed experimental conditions.
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