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Nerve Cell Physiology-2

 please return  to page-1 of nerve physiology

The potassium channels then open, and, because there is more potassium inside the membrane than outside, positively-charged potassium ions diffuse out. As these positive ions go out, the inside of the membrane once again becomes negative with respect to the outside.

Threshold stimulus & potential

  • Action potentials occur only when the membrane in stimulated (depolarized) enough so that sodium channels open completely. The minimum stimulus needed to achieve an action potential is called the threshold stimulus.
  • The threshold stimulus causes the membrane potential to become less negative (because a stimulus, no matter how small, causes a few sodium channels to open and allows some positively-charged sodium ions to diffuse in).
  • If the membrane potential reaches the threshold potential (generally 5 - 15 mV less negative than the resting potential), the voltage-regulated sodium channels all open. Sodium ions rapidly diffuse inward, & depolarization occurs.

All-or-None Law - action potentials occur maximally or not at all. In other words, there's no such thing as a partial or weak action potential. Either the threshold potential is reached and an action potential occurs, or it isn't reached and no action potential occurs.

Refractory periods:


    • During an action potential, a second stimulus will not produce a second action potential (no matter how strong that stimulus is)
    • corresponds to the period when the sodium channels are open (typically just a millisecond or less)