Research Overview

Self-organized complex spatial-temporal dynamics underlies dynamic physiological and pathological states in excitable biological systems including the heart and brain [1-3]. Nonlinear dynamics and statistical physics provide novel analytical concepts to enhance the understanding of these complex spatial-temporal systems. Based on these concepts, the Max Planck Research Group Biomedical Physics (MPRG BMP) aims to develop highly innovative experimental and theoretical approaches towards modeling, analysis and control of electrical-mechanical forms of heart disease.

We are driven by the vision that the systematic integration and evaluation of dynamics on all levels from sub-cellular, cellular, tissue, and organ to the in vivo organism is key to the understanding of complex biological systems and will open – on a long-term perspective – new paths for translating fundamental scientific discoveries into practical applications that may improve human health. In this endeavor, the theory of dynamical systems plays a central role in integrating biological experiments with mathematical developments. We are applying this translational approach to cardiac arrhythmias, a highly significant cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide. The term dynamical disease was coined for cardiac arrhythmias, suggesting that they can be best understood from the dynamical system’s perspective, integrating multidisciplinary research on all relevant spatial and temporal scales [4].

The MPRG BMP focuses on the following objectives: physiological modeling of cardiac dynamics and electro-mechanical instabilities, multivariate analysis, classification and prediction of biosignals, and control of arrhythmias by novel approaches [5]. These aims will be achieved by a data driven, integrative strategy that combines high-resolution imaging techniques with state of the art numerical modeling through innovative state and parameter estimation and model evaluation methods.


  1. J.M. Davidenko, A.V. Pertsov, R. Salomonsz, W. Baxter, and J. Jalife, Stationary and drifting spiralwaves of excitation in isolated cardiacmuscle. Nature 355, 349–351 (1992).
  2. R.A. Gray, A.M. Pertsov, and J. Jalife, Spatial and temporal organization during cardiac fibrillation. Nature 392, 75–78 (1998).
  3. F.X. Witkowski, et al. Spatiotemporal evolution of ventricular fibrillation. Nature 392, 78–82 (1998).
  4. J. Bélair, L. Glass, U. an der Heiden, and J. Milton, Dynamical disease: Identification, temporal aspects and treatment strategies of human illness. Chaos 5, 1-7 (1995).
  5. S. Luther*, F.H. Fenton*, B.G. Kornreich, A. Squires, P. Bittihn, D. Hornung, M. Zabel, J. Flanders, A. Gladuli, L. Campoy, E.M. Cherry, G. Luther, G. Hasenfuss, V.I. Krinsky, A. Pumir, R.F. Gilmour Jr., and E. Bodenschatz, Low-energy control of electrical turbulence in the heart, Nature 475, 235-239 (2011). * Both authors have contributed equally.