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J Cardiovasc Electrophysiol. 1996 Nov;7(11):1024-38.

Unique properties of cardiac action potentials recorded with voltage-sensitive dyes.

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Department of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.



Optical mapping with voltage-sensitive dyes has made it possible to record cardiac action potentials with high spatial resolution that is unattainable by conventional techniques. Optically recorded signals possess distinct properties that differ importantly from electrograms recorded with extracellular electrodes or action potentials recorded with microelectrode techniques. Despite the growing application of optical mapping to cardiac electrophysiology, relatively little quantitative information is available regarding the characteristics of optical action potentials recorded from cardiac tissue.


A high-resolution optical mapping system and microelectrode techniques were used to determine the characteristics of guinea pig ventricular action potentials recorded with the voltage-sensitive dye di-4-ANEPPS. The effects of optical magnification, tissue-light interaction, sampling rate, voltage resolution, spatial resolution, and cardiac motion on action potential signal characteristics were determined. The optical action potential signal represents the relative change in transmembrane potential arising from a volume of cells, where the area of a recording site is determined by optical magnification and detector area, and the depth of recording is determined by system optics and the visible light transmission characteristics of cardiac muscle. Using photographic lenses, the depth of tissue contributing to the signal is < 250 microns. The action potential plateau and final repolarization can be accurately reconstructed from data digitized at modest sampling rates (450 to 750 Hz), since the frequency content of optical action potentials is band-limited to approximately 150 Hz. However, faster sampling rates are needed to depict the subtle details of the action potential upstroke. In addition to temporal resolution, it is essential to achieve sufficient dynamic range and voltage resolution to accurately represent the time course of membrane potential change. Voltage resolution is inversely related to the square of spatial resolution, hence, there exists an inherent trade-off between increased spatial resolution and diminished voltage resolution. Cardiac motion, which can otherwise limit spatial resolution as well as signal fidelity, can be effectively reduced using mechanical stabilization of the heart without distorting action potential characteristics.


Optical mapping with voltage-sensitive dyes provides high-fidelity multisite action potential recording with flexible spatial resolution. When recording cardiac action potentials with voltage-sensitive dyes, the interdependence of temporal, spatial, and voltage resolutions must be carefully considered.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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