Traditional cable analyses cannot explain complex patterns of excitation in cardiac tissue with unipolar, extracellular anodal, or cathodal stimuli. Epifluorescence imaging of the transmembrane potential during and after stimulation of both refractory and excitable tissue shows distinctive regions of simultaneous depolarization and hyperpolarization during stimulation that act as virtual cathodes and anodes. The results confirm bidomain model predictions that the onset (make) of a stimulus induces propagation from the virtual cathode, whereas stimulus termination (break) induces it from the virtual anode. In make stimulation, the virtual anode can delay activation of the underlying tissue, whereas in break stimulation this occurs under the virtual cathode. Thus make and break stimulations in cardiac tissue have a common mechanism that is the result of differences in the electrical anisotropy of the intracellular and extracellular spaces and provides clear proof of the validity of the bidomain model.
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