N. F. Otani, Theory of action potential wave block at-a-distance in the heart, Physical Review E 75, 021910 (2007).


Propagation failure of an action potential wave at a finite distance from its source (so-called type-II block) may cause spiral wave formation or wave breakup in the heart, phenomena that are believed to underlie lethal and nonlethal heart rhythm disorders. In this study, we develop a sufficient condition for this type of block in a homogeneous, spatially one-dimensional system. Using a topological argument, we find that type-II block of a wave will always occur when launched within a finite range of times if the velocity of the trailing edge of the preceding wave, as measured at the stimulus site, is smaller than the velocity of a wave launched with the minimum diastolic interval (DI) for which propagation is possible. This “blocking condition” is robust, remaining valid even when memory and waveback electrotonic effects are included. The condition suggests that type-II block is greatly facilitated when waves are initiated at irregular intervals in time such that (1) the velocities of consecutive waves are as different as possible and (2) the DIs preceding each wave fall on the steeply sloped portion of the action potential duration restitution curve as often as possible. The set of timing intervals between stimuli that are predicted by the blocking condition to produce block are found to be consistent with these guidelines, and also to agree well with a coupled-maps computer simulation model, for the case of waves launched by four rapidly and irregularly timed stimuli.