Even cardiologists might not know — or pay attention to — the intracardiac nervous system. This “little brain of the heart” is a system of nerves working in concert with the brain itself to keep communication flowing smoothly and sometimes to go further, protecting cardiac muscle after a heart attack.

A team of scientists from Thomas Jefferson University and the University of Central Florida have mapped out the network of neurons in the rat heart in 3D, creating a framework to better understand how this little brain works in animals and what could potentially be done for people when it’s disrupted by disease.

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