Spirals, chaos, and new mechanisms of wave propagation

Peng Sheng Chen, Alan Garfinkel, James N. Weiss, Hrayr S. Karagueuzian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Scopus citations


The chaos theory is based on the idea that phenomena that appear disordered and random may actually be produced by relatively simple deterministic mechanisms. The disordered (aperiodic) activation that characterizes a chaotic motion is reached through one of a few well-defined paths that are characteristic of nonlinear dynamical systems. Our group has been studying VF using computerized mapping techniques. We found that in electrically induced VF, reentrant wavefronts (spiral waves) are present both in the initial tachysystolic stage (resembling VT) and the later tremulous incoordination stage (true VF). The electrophysiological characteristics associated with the transition from VT to VF is compatible with the quasiperiodic route to chaos as described in the Ruelle-Takens theorem. We propose that specific restitution of action potential duration (APD) and conduction velocity properties can cause a spiral wave (the primary oscillator) to develop additional oscillatory modes that lead to spiral meander and breakup. When spiral waves begin to meander and are modulated by other oscillatory processes, the periodic activity is replaced by unstable quasiperiodic oscillation, which then undergoes transition to chaos, signaling the onset of VF. We conclude that VF is a form of deterministic chaos. The development of VF is compatible with quasiperiodic transition to chaos. These results indicate that both the prediction and the control of fibrillation are possible based on the chaos theory and with the advent of chaos control algorithms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)414-421
Number of pages8
JournalPACE - Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology
Issue number2 II
StatePublished - Mar 15 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • chaos theory
  • oscillation
  • spiral waves
  • ventricular fibrillation
  • ventricular tachycardia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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