Vulnerable windows define susceptibility to alternans and spatial discordance

Seth Weinberg, Neha Malhotra, Leslie Tung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Electrophysiological alternans is a beat-to-beat alternation of the action potential duration and/or Ca2+ transient amplitude and is linked to ventricular arrhythmias. We investigated the significance of various rate parameters under different experimental conditions with respect to alternans incidence and the propensity for spiral wave formation. Voltage and Ca 2+ were optically mapped in monolayers of neonatal rat ventricular myocytes. Alternans did not occur at physiological temperature, but its incidence increased significantly at lowered temperatures. Pacing cycle length for spatially concordant alternans onset (PCLC), PCL for spatially discordant alternans onset (PCLD), and minimum cycle length for loss of 1:1 or 2:2 capture (MCL) also significantly increased with lower temperature but in a way such that the differences between PCLC and MCL and between PCLD and MCL widened. These results provided the rationale to identify the former difference as the alternans vulnerable window (AVW; in ms) and the latter difference as the discordant alternans vulnerable window (AVWD; in ms). Computational simulations showed that interventions that widen AVW, including altered Ca2+ cycling and enhanced K + currents, also promote alternans, regardless of whether PCL C or MCL increased or decreased. The simulation results were confirmed experimentally by addition of the ATP-sensitive K+ channel agonist pinacidil. Mathematical analysis provided a theoretical basis linking the size of AVW to the incidence of alternans. Finally, experiments showed that the size of AVWD is related to the incidence of spatially discordant alternans and, additionally, to the incidence of spiral wave formation. In conclusion, vulnerable windows can be defined that are strongly correlated with alternans incidence, spatial discordance, and spiral wave formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1727-H1737
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Arrhythmia
  • Computational model
  • Electrophysiology
  • Optical mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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