The internodal axon membrane: electrical excitability and continuous conduction in segmental demyelination

J Physiol. 1978 Jul;280:273-301. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1978.sp012384.


1. Longitudinal action currents were recorded from single undissected myelinated nerve fibres in intact, perfused ventral roots of normal rats and ones treated with diphtheria toxin to produce demyelination. 2. Closely spaced recording electrodes (120 micron), signal averaging and the use of a calibrating current throught the root permitted membrane currents to be determined over 240 micron lengths of nerve. Contour plotting was used to plot membrane current density as a function of space and time. 3. The previous result of Rasminsky & Sears (1972) of delayed saltation in demyelinated nerve fibres was confirmed. 4. In addition a new phenomenon of continuous conduction was observed, along distances of up to 1 1/2 times the afferent internodal distance. The continuous spatial distribution of inward current in these cases showed that electrical excitability was distributed along the internodes. 5. Internodal excitability was also revealed in demyelinated fibres by extra foci of inward current judged to be internodal on the basis of the spacing of the other (nodal) foci. 6. Continuous conduction occurred at velocities in the range of 1.1-2.3 m/sec or roughly 1/20th-1/40th of the velocities expected for normal stretches of the same fibres. 7. The continuous conduction was attributed to conduction along lengths of demyelinated axon. This was supported by estimates of 0.86 and 1.5 muF/cm2 for membrane capacity from the foot of a continuously conducted action potential. 8. The implications of internodal electrical excitability in demyelinated nerve fibres are discussed in relation to (a) recent estimates of the density of sodium channels in intact and homogenized normal nerves, (b) the pathophysiology of demyelinating disease.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Demyelinating Diseases / chemically induced
  • Demyelinating Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Diphtheria Toxin
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology*
  • Neural Conduction*
  • Rats
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / physiology


  • Diphtheria Toxin