Ventricular fibrillation is a cardiac arrhythmia that can result in sudden death. Understanding and treatment of this disorder would be improved if patterns of electrical activation could be accurately identified and studied during fibrillation. A feedforward artificial neural network using backpropagation was trained with the Rule-Based Method and the Current Source Density Method to identify cardiac tissue activation during fibrillation. Another feedforward artificial neural network that used backpropagation was trained with data preprocessed by those methods and the Transmembrane Current Method. Staged training, a new method that uses different sets of training examples in different stages, was used to improve the ability of the artificial neural networks to detect activation. Both artificial neural networks were able to correctly classify more than 92% of new test examples. The performance of both artificial neural networks improved when staged training was used. Thus, artificial neural networks may be useful for identifying activation during ventricular fibrillation. (C) 2000 Academic Press.