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Basic Cardiac Electrophysiology: Excitable Membranes


Cardiomyocytes are excitable cells that have the ability to contract after excitation; therefore, each heartbeat is an event of electrical–mechanical coupling. Cardiac electrical activity at different levels can be measured through variable means and modified by different drugs or medical devices. Understanding the basic mechanisms of cardiac excitation is essential not only to a physiologist, but also to a cardiologist, because cardiac arrhythmias are a major health issue in our society and clinical practice. Diagnosis and therapy of arrhythmias requires understanding the cause or origin of each arrhythmia and making decisions to control or eliminate the arrhythmia. Advances in basic research enhance our understanding of normal cell, tissue, and organ function (physiology) and also disease processes (pathophysiology), and hopefully lead to better clinical diagnosis and improved clinical therapies, either directly or indirectly. Cardiomyocytes are the main component of a heart. Their electrical activity is fundamentally a bioprocess determined by the transmembrane potential, a voltage difference between the intracellular and extracellular compartments. During a normal cardiac cycle, mechanical contraction always follows electrical excitation. This chapter provides a basic overview of membrane excitability of cardiomyocytes and other excitable cells (i.e., neuronal and skeletal).


  • Transmembrane Potential
  • Rest Membrane Potential
  • Myosin Head
  • Excitable Cell
  • Membrane Excitability

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Correspondence to Daniel C. Sigg .

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Jaye, D.A., Xiao, YF., Sigg, D.C. (2010). Basic Cardiac Electrophysiology: Excitable Membranes. In: Sigg, D., Iaizzo, P., Xiao, YF., He, B. (eds) Cardiac Electrophysiology Methods and Models. Springer, Boston, MA.

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