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Creating Modern Neuroscience: The Revolutionary 1950s$
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Gordon M. Shepherd MD, DPhil

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195391503

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195391503.001.0001

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Physiology: The Action Potential

Physiology: The Action Potential

(p.69) 6 Physiology: The Action Potential
Creating Modern Neuroscience: The Revolutionary 1950s

Gordon M. Shepherd

Oxford University Press

This chapter details early studies on signals in the nervous system. Different parts of the nervous system are interconnected by long fibers called “axons,” which enable them to function together to mediate the coordinated spontaneous activity, reflexes, perceptions, memory, and willed movements that constitute behavior. The key property of an axon that is special for the nervous system, is to be “excitable,”; capable of supporting self-regenerating waves of electrical potential that can propagate rapidly over long distances. These waves are called “impulses,” or “action potentials.” Understanding excitability is therefore central to understanding the nature of nervous activity.

Keywords:   nervous system, axons, nerve impulses, action potentials

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