Computational approaches to understand cardiac electrophysiology and arrhythmias

Byron N. Roberts, Pei Chi Yang, Steven B. Behrens, Jonathan D. Moreno, Colleen E. Clancy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Cardiac rhythms arise from electrical activity generated by precisely timed opening and closing of ion channels in individual cardiac myocytes. These impulses spread throughout the cardiac muscle to manifest as electrical waves in the whole heart. Regularity of electrical waves is critically important since they signal the heart muscle to contract, driving the primary function of the heart to act as a pump and deliver blood to the brain and vital organs. When electrical activity goes awry during a cardiac arrhythmia, the pump does not function, the brain does not receive oxygenated blood, and death ensues. For more than 50 years, mathematically based models of cardiac electrical activity have been used to improve understanding of basic mechanisms of normal and abnormal cardiac electrical function. Computer-based modeling approaches to understand cardiac activity are uniquely helpful because they allow for distillation of complex emergent behaviors into the key contributing components underlying them. Here we review the latest advances and novel concepts in the field as they relate to understanding the complex interplay between electrical, mechanical, structural, and genetic mechanisms during arrhythmia development at the level of ion channels, cells, and tissues. We also discuss the latest computational approaches to guiding arrhythmia therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)H766-H783
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012


  • Arrhythmia
  • Cardiac electrophysiology
  • Ion channels
  • Therapy


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