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J Gen Physiol. 1925 Mar 20;7(4):473-507.


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Nela Research Laboratories, Cleveland, and the Laboratory of General Physiology, University of Chicago, Chicago.


1. The speed of transmission of the activation wave along passive iron wires enclosed in glass tubes containing dilute (70 per cent) nitric acid increases with the conductivity (sectional area) of the column of electrolyte but at a slower rate. The speed is closely proportional to the square root of the conductivity See PDF for Equation. The reasons for this relationship are discussed and an explanation is proposed. 2. The recovery of transmissivity after the passage of an activation wave is gradual and follows a characteristic course. After an interval of partial or decremental transmission (having a high temperature coefficient and lasting several minutes at 20 degrees ), the wire recovers its power of transmitting an activation wave for an indefinite distance. In such a recovered wire the speed of transmission is at first slow and increases by degrees up to a maximum, the increase following a curve apparently of the type v(t) = v(0) (1 - e(_kt)). The approximate time required to attain this maximum (corresponding to complete recovery) at the different temperatures is 15 to 20 minutes at 20 degrees , 30 to 45 minutes at 15 degrees , ca. 60 minutes at 10 degrees , and 90 minutes or more at 5 degrees . 3. The character of the curve of recovery (the curve relating speed of transmission to interval since previous activation) agrees with the assumption that the increase in speed depends on a progressive chemical change in the molecules forming the passivating film, this change involving the transformation of (relatively) nonreactive into reactive molecules and following the course of a monomolecular reaction. 4. The temperature coefficient of the speed of transmission (between 5 degrees and 20 degrees ) is low, of the order Q(10) = 1.3 to 1.6. That of the rate of recovery, on the contrary, is high (Q(10) = ca. 3). The parallel to the conditions in nerve and other transmitting protoplasmic systems is pointed out and discussed. 5. Passive wires enclosed in acid-containing continuous and interrupted glass tubes immersed in a large volume of acid exhibit characteristic phenomena of distance action; under appropriate conditions the velocity of transmission of the activating influence between different areas may thus be greatly increased. Characteristic instances are cited and some possible physiological parallels are pointed out.


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