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J Physiol. Dec 1972; 227(2): 323–350.1.
PMCID: PMC1331198

Internodal conduction in undissected demyelinated nerve fibres

Abstract

1. A new method is described for recording external longitudinal currents from single undissected nerve fibres in rat ventral roots. The method permits identification of the sites of fifteen or more successive nodes of Ranvier in a given single fibre and the measurement of internodal conduction times between them.

2. Average internodal conduction time for normal ventral root fibres of internodal length between 0·75 and 1·45 mm is 19·7 ± 4·6 (S.D.) μsec at 37° C. Internodal conduction time appeared to show a minimum for fibres of internodal length 1·0 mm.

3. Ventral roots were demyelinated by focal application of diphtheria toxin. Although conduction is markedly slowed in demyelinated fibres, sites of inward membrane current remain spatially separated indicating that conduction remains saltatory to the point of conduction block rather than becoming continuous as in unmyelinated fibres.

4. Slowing of conduction appears to be due to changes in the passive electrical properties of the internodal myelin. Evidence is presented suggesting that there is an increase in internodal capacitance and a decrease in internodal transverse resistance at internodes of demyelinated fibres; such changes would have the effect of delaying excitation at the nodes. The changes in passive electrical properties, which appear to be primarily in the vicinity of the nodes, would be consistent with the pathological changes observed in demyelinated fibres.

5. Internodal conduction times in demyelinated fibres have ranged from normal (26 μsec at 30° C) to more than 600 μsec. There is a great variation in internodal conduction time at successive internodes of a given single fibre; this presumably reflects the varying severity of demyelination of successive internodes.

6. As in normal fibres, nodes of demyelinated fibres generate less current when excited by the second of two closely spaced impulses. This results in an increased internodal conduction time for the second impulse and, at a critically short interstimulus interval, conduction block of the second impulse.

7. The increased refractory period of transmission of internodes with increased internodal conduction times is a consequence of the decreased ability of such internodes to sustain propagation in the face of small decreases in nodal current.

8. During tetanic stimulation, increases in internodal conduction time are associated with corresponding decreases in nodal current generated by the node proximal to the internode in question.

9. It is suggested that changes in the magnitude of the nodal current during repetitive activity are due to changes in transmembrane concentration gradients of sodium, the increased internodal conduction time and eventual conduction block during tetanic stimulation being caused by intracellular sodium accumulation.

10. Intracellular sodium accumulation is also offered as the explanation for the post-tetanic depression seen in demyelinated fibres.

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Selected References

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