Sodium Unmasked

Alan J. McComas

in Galvani’s Spark

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199751754
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897094 | DOI:
Sodium Unmasked

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Hodgkin and Huxley publish the full version of their pre-war findings in the squid giant axon. Unaware of an important paper by Overton, they neglect to include an increase in sodium permeability as a possible cause of the brief reversal of membrane polarity during the impulse. In 1947, however, Hodgkin sets out to explore the effect of sodium ion concentration on the nerve impulse, this time with Katz as a colleague. They find that the rate of rise and the amplitude of the action potential (impulse) increase with the sodium ion concentration. Their results suggest that the reversal of membrane polarity during the action potential is due to a transient increase in sodium permeability. Meanwhile Lorente de Nó publishes his monolithic study of excitability in frog nerve. Unaware of the nerve sheath acting as a diffusion barrier, he wrongly concludes that potassium and sodium ions have minor roles in the genesis of the resting and action potentials.

Keywords: Alan Hodgkin; Bernard Katz; squid axon; sodium ions; Lorente de Nó; frog sciatic nerve

Chapter.  4041 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuroscience

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