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Purves D, Augustine GJ, Fitzpatrick D, et al., editors. Neuroscience. 2nd edition. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates; 2001.

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Neuroscience. 2nd edition.

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Chapter 2Electrical Signals of Nerve Cells


Nerve cells generate electrical signals that transmit information. Although neurons are not intrinsically good conductors of electricity, they have evolved elaborate mechanisms for generating electrical signals based on the flow of ions across their plasma membranes. Ordinarily, neurons generate a negative potential, called the resting membrane potential, that can be measured by recording the voltage between the inside and outside of nerve cells. The action potential abolishes the negative resting potential and makes the transmembrane potential transiently positive. Action potentials are propagated along the length of axons and are the fundamental signal that carries information from one place to another in the nervous system. Generation of both the resting potential and the action potential can be understood in terms of the nerve cell's selective permeability to different ions, and of the normal distribution of these ions across the cell membrane.

  • Electrical Potentials Across Nerve Cell Membranes
  • How Ionic Movements Produce Electrical Signals
  • The Forces that Create Membrane Potentials
  • Electrochemical Equilibrium in an Environment with More Than One Permeant Ion
  • The Ionic Basis of the Resting Membrane Potential
  • The Ionic Basis of Action Potentials
  • Summary
  • Additional Reading

By agreement with the publisher, this book is accessible by the search feature, but cannot be browsed.

Copyright © 2001, Sinauer Associates, Inc.
Bookshelf ID: NBK11053


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