"Voodoo" Death Revisited: The Modern Lessons of Neurocardiology

Research Demonstrates Neurally Mediated Cardiac Damage

Sep 19, 2011, 08:00 ET from The Heart Failure Society of America

BOSTON, Sept. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The 15th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) will include a presentation "Voodoo Death" by Dr. Martin A. Samuels, Chairman of the Department of Neurology at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. His talk will focus on the connection between the nervous system and the heart, and will highlight the phenomenon of the human brain releasing an excess of chemicals to the heart resulting in heart failure and in several cases sudden death. This talk is part of the Opening Plenary Session "The Brain Connection".  

Dr. Samuels' studies build on Walter B. Cannon's initial concept of "voodoo" death which focused on death from fright. In his presentation, Dr. Samuels will present cases of abnormality when the brain releases an overdose of norepinephrine to the heart resulting in takotsubo cardiomyophathy or sudden death. Dr. Samuels will explain what happens during this situation, when this could occur and what precautions should be taken to prevent this from happening.

"Although this situation is rare and most survive such a reaction, several cases show the lethality of takotsubo cardiomyopathy," said Dr. Samuels.  "I found this level of reaction in individuals attacked by a bear or experiencing an earthquake. They are killed on the spot because in a fraction of a second this overdose of neurochemicals into the heart can be life threatening."

Dr. Samuels has spent years building on Dr. Cannon's concept of "voodoo" death and working to explain neural abnormalities that result in heart malfunctions. Dr. Samuels is the Founding Chair of the Department of Neurology at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and a leading force in integrating neurology with other fields of medicine.

For a complete list of annual meeting sessions or for details on attending the conference, call (617) 226-7183 or visit www.hfsa.org and click on Annual Scientific Meeting. There is no registration fee for accredited journalists. Interview areas will be available on-site in addition to a fully-staffed press room with phone and internet accessibility. You may follow news from the meeting on Twitter #HFSA.

About Heart Failure

Heart failure is a progressive condition in which the heart muscle becomes weakened after it is injured, most commonly from heart attack or high blood pressure, and gradually loses its ability to pump enough blood to supply the body's needs. Many people are not aware they have heart failure because the symptoms are often mistaken for signs of getting older. Heart failure affects 4.6 to 4.8 million individuals in the United States. Demographic and clinical evidence strongly suggests that the prevalence of heart failure will increase throughout the next decade. Ten to 15 years ago heart failure was considered a "death sentence;" however, recent advances in treatment have shown that early diagnosis and proper care in early stages of the condition are key to slowing, stopping or in some cases reversing progression, improving quality of life, and extending life expectancy. For more information on heart failure, please visit www.abouthf.org.

About the Heart Failure Society of America

The Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) is a nonprofit educational organization, founded in 1994 as the first organized association of heart failure experts. The HFSA provides a forum for all those interested in heart function, heart failure research and patient care. The Society also serves as a resource for governmental agencies (FDA, NIH, NHLBI, CMS). The HFSA Annual Scientific Meeting is designed to highlight recent advances in the development of strategies to address the complex epidemiological, clinical and therapeutic issues of heart failure. Additional information on HFSA can be found at www.hfsa.org.

SOURCE The Heart Failure Society of America