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Topic 6 Electrotonic potentials (comparison with the action potential, examples)

Electrotonic conduction refers to the passive conduction of current.


In order for a neuron to fire, there are two types of electrical potentials produced:
1. non-propagated local (passive current) potential called an electrotonic
potential
2. Propagated impulse called an action potential.

Electrotonic potentials represent changes to the neuron's membrane


potential that do not lead to the opening of gated ion channels.
Electrotonic potentials can sum spatially or temporally. Because the
ionic charge enters in one location and dissipates to others, losing
intensity as it spreads, electrotonic spread is a graded response.
Electrotonic spread is generally responsible for increasing the voltage
of the soma (neuronal cell body) sufficiently to exceed threshold and
trigger the action potential; Electrotonic potentials are conducted faster
than action potentials, but attenuate rapidly so are unsuitable for longdistance signaling.

Comparison with action potential:

Stimulus intensity
Direction
Amplitude
Amplitude during
propagation
Refractory period
Summation
Function

Mechanism

Action potential
Above threshold
Depolarization
All or none
Without decrement

Electrotonic potential
Any intensity
Depolarization or hyperpolarization
Proportional to stimulus
With decrement

Absolute and relative refractory periods


None
Propagation of excitation over long
distances

None
Temporal and spatial
Propagation of excitation over short distances
receptor potential
postsynaptic potential
Ligand gated channels
Mechanical stimulus gated channels
Second messenger gated channels
Examples:
EPP -EPSP, IPSP

Voltage gated channels

EPSP/IPSP example: Chemical synapse secretes a


neurotransmitter which alters the membrane potential
of the post-synaptic neuron. A chemical synapse can be
excitatory (generating an excitatory post-synaptic
potential, EPSP) or inhibitory (inhibitory post-synaptic
potential, IPSP). Integration of EPSP's and IPSP's
determines the probability that the post-synaptic cell
will fire.