July 22, 2010
Can Chaos Theory Help Predict Heart Attacks?
Chaos models may someday help model cardiac arrhythmias -- abnormal electrical rhythms of the heart, say researchers in the journal CHAOS, which is published by the American Institute of Physics. In recent years, medical research has drawn more attention to chaos in cardiac dynamics. Although chaos marks the disorder of a dynamical system, locating the origin of chaos and watching it develop might allow researchers to predict, and maybe even counteract, certain outcomes.
An important example is the chaotic behavior of ventricular fibrillation, a severely abnormal heart rhythm that is often life-threatening. One study found chaos in two and three dimensions in the breakup of spiral and scroll waves, thought to be precursors of cardiac fibrillation. Another study found that one type of heartbeat irregularity, a sudden response of the heart to rapid beating called "spatially discordant alternans," leads to chaotic behavior and thus is a possible predictor of a fatal heart attack.
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