22.7: The Cardiac Cycle
The heart beats rhythmically in a sequence called the cardiac cycle—a rapid coordination of contraction (systole) and relaxation (diastole).
Electrical signals—sent from the sinoatrial (SA) node in the right atrial wall to the atrioventricular (AV) node between the right atrium and right ventricle—cause both atria to simultaneously contract. When the signal reaches the AV node, it pauses for approximately a tenth of a second, allowing the atria to contract and empty blood into the ventricles before they contract.
The electrical impulses are then conducted by the bundle of His and propagated to the left and right bundle branches. The signal is then conducted by Purkinje fibers in the ventricular walls, inducing ventricular contraction and pumping blood out of the heart.
During diastole (relaxation), the heart fills with blood, and the cycle is repeated.