Electrical shock has been the one effective treatment for ventricular fibrillation for several decades. With the advancement of electrical and optical mapping techniques, histology, and computer modeling, the mechanisms responsible for defibrillation are now coming to light. In this review, we discuss recent work that demonstrates the various mechanisms responsible for defibrillation. On the cellular level, membrane depolarization and electroporation affect defibrillation outcome. Cell bundles and collagenous septae are secondary sources and cause virtual electrodes at sites far from shocking electrodes. On the whole-heart level, shock field gradient and critical points determine whether a shock is successful or whether reentry causes initiation and continuation of fibrillation. © 2010 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.