Deterministic Chaos and Fractal Complexity in the Dynamics of Cardiovascular Behavior: Perspectives on a New Frontier
Identifiers and Pagination:Year: 2009
First Page: 110
Last Page: 123
Publisher ID: TOCMJ-3-110
Article History:Received Date: 17/8/2009
Revision Received Date: 24/8/2009
Acceptance Date: 27/8/2009
Electronic publication date: 10/9/2009
Collection year: 2009
open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/) which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.
Physiological systems such as the cardiovascular system are capable of five kinds of behavior: equilibrium, periodicity, quasi-periodicity, deterministic chaos and random behavior. Systems adopt one or more these behaviors depending on the function they have evolved to perform. The emerging mathematical concepts of fractal mathematics and chaos theory are extending our ability to study physiological behavior. Fractal geometry is observed in the physical structure of pathways, networks and macroscopic structures such the vasculature and the His-Purkinje network of the heart. Fractal structure is also observed in processes in time, such as heart rate variability. Chaos theory describes the underlying dynamics of the system, and chaotic behavior is also observed at many levels, from effector molecules in the cell to heart function and blood pressure. This review discusses the role of fractal structure and chaos in the cardiovascular system at the level of the heart and blood vessels, and at the cellular level. Key functional consequences of these phenomena are highlighted, and a perspective provided on the possible evolutionary origins of chaotic behavior and fractal structure. The discussion is non-mathematical with an emphasis on the key underlying concepts.