Strength-duration properties and glycemic control in human diabetic motor nerves

Clin Neurophysiol. 2005 Feb;116(2):254-8. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2004.08.003.


Objective: To investigate the influences of hyperglycemia on axonal excitability in human diabetic nerves. Hyperglycemia results in decreased Na+-K+ pump function, presumably leading to intra-axonal Na+ accumulation and thereby, reduced Na+ currents.

Methods: The strength-duration time constant (tau(SD)), which partly depends on persistent Na+ conductance active at the resting membrane potential, was measured in median motor axons of 79 diabetic patients. The relationship of tau(SD) with the state of glycemic control (hemoglobin A1c [HbA1c] levels) was analyzed.

Results: The mean tau(SD) was longer for diabetic patients than for normal controls, but the difference was not significant. Among diabetic patients, the subgroup of patients with good glycemic control (HbA1c<7%) had significantly longer tau(SD) than the patient group with poor control (HbA1c>9%; P=0.04). The mean tau(SD) was longest at the HbA1c level of 5-6%, gradually decreasing and reaching a plateau around the HbA1c level of 9%. There was an inverse relationship between HbA1c levels and tau(SD), when the HbA1c levels ranged from 5 to 9% (P=0.04).

Conclusions: In diabetic nerves, tau(SD) is generally longer than normal, but hyperglycemia is associated with paradoxically shortened tau(SD), because of a decrease in axonal persistent Na+ conductance, possibly related to reduced membranous Na+ gradient, tissue acidosis, or other metabolic factors.

Significance: Measurements of tau(SD) could provide a new insight into changes in ionic conductance in human diabetic nerves.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Axons
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / blood
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / physiopathology*
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Female
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Median Nerve / physiopathology
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neurons
  • Neural Conduction
  • Sodium Channels / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Sodium Channels