Cardiac function is tightly regulated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Activation of the sympathetic nervous system increases cardiac output by increasing heart rate and stroke volume, while parasympathetic nerve stimulation instantly slows heart rate. Importantly, imbalance in autonomic control of the heart has been implicated in the development of arrhythmias and heart failure. Understanding of the mechanisms and effects of autonomic stimulation is a major challenge because synapses in different regions of the heart result in multiple changes to heart function. For example, nerve synapses on the sinoatrial node (SAN) impact pacemaking, while synapses on contractile cells alter contraction and arrhythmia vulnerability. Here, we present a multiscale neurocardiac modelling and simulator tool that predicts the effect of efferent stimulation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the ANS on the cardiac SAN and ventricular myocardium. The model includes a layered representation of the ANS and reproduces firing properties measured experimentally. Model parameters are derived from experiments and atomistic simulations. The model is a first prototype of a digital twin that is applied to make predictions across all system scales, from subcellular signalling to pacemaker frequency to tissue level responses. We predict conditions under which autonomic imbalance induces proarrhythmia and can be modified to prevent or inhibit arrhythmia. In summary, the multiscale model constitutes a predictive digital twin framework to test and guide high-throughput prediction of novel neuromodulatory therapy. KEY POINTS: A multi-layered model representation of the autonomic nervous system that includes sympathetic and parasympathetic branches, each with sparse random intralayer connectivity, synaptic dynamics and conductance based integrate-and-fire neurons generates firing patterns in close agreement with experiment. A key feature of the neurocardiac computational model is the connection between the autonomic nervous system and both pacemaker and contractile cells, where modification to pacemaker frequency drives initiation of electrical signals in the contractile cells. We utilized atomic-scale molecular dynamics simulations to predict the association and dissociation rates of noradrenaline with the β-adrenergic receptor. Multiscale predictions demonstrate how autonomic imbalance may increase proclivity to arrhythmias or be used to terminate arrhythmias. The model serves as a first step towards a digital twin for predicting neuromodulation to prevent or reduce disease.
Experimental motivation: A multi-layered model representation of the autonomic nervous system that includes sympathetic and parasympathetic branches, each with sparse random intralayer connectivity, synaptic dynamics and conductance based integrate-and-fire neurons, generates firing patterns in agreement with experiment.
Model Type: Synapse
Region(s) or Organism(s):
Simulation Environment: C or C++ program