Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Dynamics of Coupled Oscillators

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Version 2 2023-03-13, 22:16
Version 1 2021-11-03, 21:09
posted on 2023-03-13, 22:16 authored by Holland, Nigel Lawrence

The subject is introduced by considering the treatment of oscillators in Mathematics from the simple Poincar´e oscillator, a single variable dynamical process defined on a circle, to the oscillatory dynamics of systems of differential equations. Some models of real oscillator systems are considered. Noise processes are included in the dynamics of the system. Coupling between oscillators is investigated both in terms of analytical systems and as coupled oscillator models. It is seen that driven oscillators can be used as a model of 2 coupled oscillators in 2 and 3 dimensions due to the dependence of the dynamics on the phase difference of the oscillators. This means that the dynamics are easily able to be modelled by a 1D or 2D map. The analysis of N coupled oscillator systems is also described. The human cardiovascular system is studied as an example of a coupled oscillator system. The heart oscillator system is described by a system of delay differential equations and the dynamics characterised. The mechanics of the coupling with the respiration is described. In particular the model of the heart oscillator includes the baroreceptor reflex with time delay whereby the aortic fluid pressure influences the heart rate and the peripheral resistance. Respiration is modelled as forcing the heart oscillator system. Locking zones caused by respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), the synchronisation of the heart with respiration, are found by plotting the rotation number against respiration frequency. These are seen to be relatively narrow for typical physiological parameters and only occur for low ratios of heart rate to respiration frequency. Plots of the diastolic pressure and heart interval in terms of respiration phase parameterised by respiration frequency illustrate the dynamics of synchronisation in the human cardiovascular system.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science


McGuinness, Mark