Electromechanical Waves and Instabilities in Cardiac Tissue

During cardiac fibrillation, the coherent mechanical contraction of the heart is disrupted by vortex-like rotating waves or scroll waves of electrical activity, which share topological analogies to point vortices and vortex filaments in hydrodynamic turbulence [1]. The dynamics of these filaments and their electro-mechanic instabilities due to the nonlinear interaction with the anisotropic, heterogeneous substrate and the complex boundaries of the heart result in self-organized disordered dynamics. Furthermore, it has been shown that tissue deformation itself may affect electrical wave propagation and its stability, where both pro-arrhythmic and anti-arrhythmic effects have been observed [2]. While cardiac electrophysiology has been studied in great detail both experimentally and theoretically, the nonlinear dynamics and interplay of electrical and mechanical phenomena in the heart remain largely elusive.

Our research focuses on three specific aims:

  1. development of advanced experimental methods to study electro-mechanical wave phenomena;
  2. modeling of electrical and mechanical motion of cardiac tissue by means of simplified (generic) reaction-diffusion-mechanics;
  3. development of methods to study the system’s stability.


  1. F.H. Fenton and A. Karma, Chaos 8, 20-47 (1998).
  2. R.H. Keldermann and M.P. Nash and A.V. Panfilov, Physica D 238, 1000-1007 (2009).