An atrioventricular node model incorporating autonomic tone

Front Physiol. 2022 Sep 15:13:976468. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2022.976468. eCollection 2022.


The response to atrial fibrillation (AF) treatment is differing widely among patients, and a better understanding of the factors that contribute to these differences is needed. One important factor may be differences in the autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity. The atrioventricular (AV) node plays an important role during AF in modulating heart rate. To study the effect of the ANS-induced activity on the AV nodal function in AF, mathematical modelling is a valuable tool. In this study, we present an extended AV node model that incorporates changes in autonomic tone. The extension was guided by a distribution-based sensitivity analysis and incorporates the ANS-induced changes in the refractoriness and conduction delay. Simulated RR series from the extended model driven by atrial impulse series obtained from clinical tilt test data were qualitatively evaluated against clinical RR series in terms of heart rate, RR series variability and RR series irregularity. The changes to the RR series characteristics during head-down tilt were replicated by a 10% decrease in conduction delay, while the changes during head-up tilt were replicated by a 5% decrease in the refractory period and a 10% decrease in the conduction delay. We demonstrate that the model extension is needed to replicate ANS-induced changes during tilt, indicating that the changes in RR series characteristics could not be explained by changes in atrial activity alone.

Keywords: ECG; RR series characteristics; atrial fibrillation; atrioventricular node; autonomic tone; mathematical modeling; sample entropy; tilt test.