Compound sensory action potential in normal and pathological human nerves

Muscle Nerve. 2004 Apr;29(4):465-83. doi: 10.1002/mus.10524.


The compound sensory nerve action potential (SNAP) is the result of phase summation and cancellation of single fiber potentials (SFAPs) with amplitudes that depend on fiber diameter, and the amplitude and shape of the SNAP is determined by the distribution of fiber diameters. Conduction velocities at different conduction distances are determined by summation of SFAPs of varying fiber diameters, and differ in this respect, also, from the compound muscle action potential (CMAP) for which conduction velocities are determined by the very fastest fibers in the nerve. The effect and extent of temporal dispersion over increasing conduction distance is greater for the SNAP than CMAP, and demonstration of conduction block is therefore difficult. In addition, the effect of temporal dispersion on amplitude and shape is strongly dependent on the number of conducting fibers and their distribution, and, with fiber loss or increased conduction velocity variability changes of the SNAP may be smaller than expected from normal nerve. The biophysical characteristics of sensory and motor fibers differ, and this may to some extent determine divergent pathophysiological changes in sensory and motor fibers in different polyneuropathies. In this review, different factors that characterize sensory fibers and set the SNAP apart from the CMAP are discussed to emphasize the supplementary and complementary information that can be obtained from sensory conduction studies. Sensory conduction studies require particular effort and attention to theory and practical detail that may be time consuming.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Demyelinating Diseases / pathology
  • Demyelinating Diseases / physiopathology
  • Electrodes
  • Electrophysiology
  • Humans
  • Nerve Fibers / pathology
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / pathology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Peripheral Nerves / pathology
  • Peripheral Nerves / physiology