Excitability of human axons

Clin Neurophysiol. 2001 Sep;112(9):1575-85. doi: 10.1016/s1388-2457(01)00595-8.


The excitability of human axons can be studied reliably using the technique of threshold tracking, which allows the strength of a test stimulus to be adjusted by computer to activate a defined fraction of the maximal nerve or muscle action potential. The stimulus current that just evokes the target response is considered the "threshold" for that response. More useful than the resting threshold are other indices of axonal excitability derived from pairs of threshold measurements, such as refractoriness, supernormality, strength-duration time constant and "threshold electrotonus" (i.e. the changes in threshold produced by long-lasting depolarizing or hyperpolarizing current pulses). Each of these measurements depends on membrane potential and on other biophysical properties of the axons. Together they can provide new information about the pathophysiology underlying abnormalities in excitability in neuropathy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Differential Threshold
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrophysiology / methods
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Neural Conduction / physiology


  • Ion Channels