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J Theor Biol. 1991 Feb 7;148(3):345-82.

A distributed-parameter model of the myelinated nerve fiber.

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Division of Restorative Neurology and Human Neurobiology, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas.

Erratum in

  • J Theor Biol 1991 Oct 21;152(4):569-71.


This paper presents a new model for the characterization of electrical activity in the nodal, paranodal and internodal regions of isolated amphibian and mammalian myelinated nerve fibers. It differs from previous models in the following ways: (1) in its ability to incorporate detailed anatomical and electrophysiological data; (2) in its approach to the myelinated nerve fiber as a multi-axial cable; and (3) in the numerical algorithm used to obtain distributed model equation solutions for potential and current. The morphometric properties are taken from detailed electron microscopic anatomical studies (Berthold & Rydmark, 1983a, Experientia 39, 964-976). The internodal axolemma is characterized as an excitable membrane and model-generated nodal and internodal membrane action potentials are presented. A system of describing equations for the equivalent network model is derived, based on the application of Kirchoff's Current Law, which take the form of multiple cross-coupled parabolic partial differential equations. An implicit numerical integration method is developed and the numerical solution implemented on a parallel processor. Non-uniform spatial step sizes are used, enabling detailed representation of the nodal region while minimizing the number of total segments necessary to represent the overall fiber. Conduction velocities of 20.2 m sec-1 at 20 degrees C for a 15 microns diameter amphibian fiber and 57.6 m sec-1 at 37 degrees C for a 17.5 microns diameter mammalian fiber are achieved, which agrees qualitatively with published experimental data at similar temperatures (Huxley & Stämpfli, 1949, J. Physiol., Lond. 108, 315-339; Rasminsky, 1973, Arch, Neurol. 28, 287-292). The simulation results demonstrate the ability of this model to produce detailed representations of the transaxonal, transmyelin and transfiber potentials and currents, as well as the longitudinal extra-axonal, periaxonal and intra-axonal currents. Also indicated is the potential contribution of the paranodal axolemma to nodal activity as well as the presence of significant longitudinal currents in the periaxonal space adjacent to the node of Ranvier.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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