A generalized activating function for predicting virtual electrodes in cardiac tissue

Eric A. Sobie, Robert C. Susil, Leslie Tung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


To fully understand the mechanisms of defibrillation, it is critical to know how a given electrical stimulus causes membrane polarizations in cardiac tissue. We have extended the concept of the activating function, originally used to describe neuronal stimulation, to derive a new expression that identifies the sources that drive changes in transmembrane potential. Source terms, or virtual electrodes, consist of either second derivatives of extracellular potential weighted by intracellular conductivity or extracellular potential gradients weighted by derivatives of intracellular conductivity. The full response of passive tissue can be considered, in simple eases, to be a convolution of this 'generalized activating function' with the impulse response of the tissue. Computer simulations of a two- dimensional sheet of passive myocardium under steady-state conditions demonstrate that this source term is useful for estimating the effects of applied electrical stimuli. The generalized activating function predicts oppositely polarized regions of tissue when unequally anisotropic tissue is point stimulated and a monopolar response when a point stimulus is applied to isotropic tissue. In the bulk of the myocardium, this new expression is helpful for understanding mechanisms by which virtual electrodes can be produced, such as the hypothetical 'sawtooth' pattern of polarization, as well as polarization owing to regions of depressed conductivity, missing cells or clefts, changes in fiber diameter, or fiber curvature. In comparing solutions obtained with an assumed extracellular potential distribution to those with fully coupled intra- and extracellular domains, we find that the former provides a reliable estimate of the total solution. Thus the generalized activating function that we have derived provides a useful way of understanding virtual electrode effects in cardiac tissue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1410-1423
Number of pages14
JournalBiophysical journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


Dive into the research topics of 'A generalized activating function for predicting virtual electrodes in cardiac tissue'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this