Nervous System

Generation of Nerve Impulse

Neurons are excitable cells because their membranes are in a polarized state. Different types of ion channels are present on the nervous membrane. These ion channels are selectively permeable to different ions. When a neuron is not conducting any impulse, i.e., resting, the axonal membrane is comparatively more permeable to potassium ions (K+) and nearly impermeable to sodium ions (Na+). Similarly, the membrane is impermeable to negatively charged proteins present in the axoplasm. Consequently, the axoplasm inside the axon contains high concentration of K+ and negatively charged proteins and low concentration of Na+.


In contrast, the fluid outside the axon contains a low concentration of K+, a high concentration of Na+ and thus forms a concentration gradient. These Neurons are excitable cells because their membranes are in a polarized state. Different types of ion channels are present on the nervous membrane. These ion channels are selectively permeable to different ions. When a neuron is not conducting any impulse, i.e., resting, the axonal membrane is comparatively more permeable to potassium ions (K+) and nearly impermeable to sodium ions (Na+). Similarly, the membrane is impermeable to negatively charged proteins present in the axoplasm. Consequently, the axoplasm inside the axon contains high concentration of K+ and negatively charged proteins and low concentration of Na+.

transmission of nerve impulse at synapse


In contrast, the fluid outside the axon contains a low concentration of K+, a high concentration of Na+ and thus forms a concentration gradient. These ionic gradients across the resting membrane are maintained by the active transport of ions by the sodium-potassium pump which transports 3 Na+ outwards for 2 K+ into the cell. As a result, the outer surface of the axonal membrane possesses a positive charge while its inner surface becomes negatively charged and therefore is polarised. The electrical potential difference across the resting plasma membrane is called as the resting potential.

Conduction of Nerve Impulse

Action potential of site is reversed, and an action potential is generated at site B. Thus, the impulse (action potential) generated at site A arrives at site B. When a stimulus is applied at a site on the polarised membrane, the membrane at the site A becomes freely permeable to Na+. This leads to a rapid influx of Na+ followed by the reversal of the polarity at that site, i.e., the outer surface of the membrane becomes negatively charged and the inner side becomes positively charged. The polarity of the membrane at the site is thus reversed and hence depolarised. The electrical potential difference across the plasma membrane at the site A is called the action potential, which is in fact termed as a nerve impulse.


At sites immediately ahead, the axon (e.g., site B) membrane has a positive charge on the outer surface and a negative charge on its inner surface. As a result, a current flows on the inner surface from site A to site B. ptic neuron, which may or may not be separated by a gap called synaptic cleft. There are two types of synapses, namely, electrical synapses and chemical synapses. At electrical synapses, the membranes of pre- and post-synaptic neurons are in very close proximity. Electrical current can flow directly from one neuron into the other across these synapses. Transmission of an impulse across electrical synapses is very similar to impulse conduction along a single axon. Impulse transmission across an electrical synapse is always faster than that across a chemical synapse. Electrical synapses are rare in our system.

At a chemical synapse, the membranes of the pre- and post-synaptic neurons are separated by a fluid-filled space called synaptic cleft. The rise in the stimulus-induced permeability to Na+ is extremely shortlived. It is quickly followed by a rise in permeability to K+. Within a fraction of a second, K+ diffuses outside the membrane and restores the resting potential of the membrane at the site of excitation and the fibre becomes once more responsive to further stimulation.

Transmission of Impulses generate a new potential in the post-synaptic neuron. The new potential developed may be either excitatory or inhibitory.



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