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As the coupling in a heterogeneous excitable medium is reduced, three different types of behavior are encountered: plane waves propagate without breaking up, plane waves break up into spiral waves, and plane waves block. We illustrate these phenomena in monolayers of chick embryonic heart cells using calcium sensitive fluorescent dyes. Following the addition of heptanol, an agent that reduces the electrical coupling between cells, we observe breakup of spiral waves. These results are modeled in a heterogeneous cellular automaton model in which the neighborhood of interaction is modified.

Original publication




Journal article


Phys Rev Lett

Publication Date





Animals, Calcium, Cell Communication, Cells, Cultured, Chick Embryo, Fluorescent Dyes, Heptanol, Intercellular Junctions, Models, Biological, Myocardium, Optics and Photonics