Mapping cardiac pacemaker circuits: Methodological puzzles of the sinoatrial node optical mapping

Igor R. Efimov, Vadim V. Fedorov, Boyoung Joung, Shien-Fong Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Historically, milestones in science are usually associated with methodological breakthroughs. Likewise, the advent of electrocardiography, microelectrode recordings and more recently optical mapping have ushered in new periods of significance of advancement in elucidating basic mechanisms in cardiac electrophysiology. As with any novel technique, however, data interpretation is challenging and should be approached with caution, as it cannot be simply extrapolated from previously used methodologies and with experience and time eventually becomes validated. A good example of this is the use of optical mapping in the sinoatrial node (SAN): when microelectrode and optical recordings are obtained from the same site in myocardium, significantly different results may be noted with respect to signal morphology and as a result have to be interpreted by a different set of principles. Given the rapid spread of the use of optical mapping, careful evaluation must be made in terms of methodology with respect to interpretation of data gathered by optical sensors from fluorescent potential-sensitive dyes. Different interpretations of experimental data may lead to different mechanistic conclusions. This review attempts to address the origin and interpretation of the "double component" morphology in the optical action potentials obtained from the SAN region. One view is that these 2 components represent distinctive signals from the SAN and atrial cells and can be fully separated with signal processing. A second view is that the first component preceding the phase 0 activation represents the membrane currents and intracellular calcium transients induced diastolic depolarization from the SAN. Although the consensus from both groups is that ionic mechanisms, namely the joint action of the membrane and calcium automaticity, are important in the SAN function, it is unresolved whether the double-component originates from the recording methodology or represents the underlying physiology. This overview aims to advance a common understanding of the basic principles of optical mapping in complex 3D anatomic structures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-271
Number of pages17
JournalCirculation Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2010


  • Calcium
  • Optical mapping
  • Sinoatrial exit block
  • Sinoatrial node


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