Key Points

Action potentials are very brief electrical events and are elicited and propagated in an all-or-nothing fashion.

Information about intensity is encoded as the frequency of firing of action potentials. The resting potential is due to a high resting permeability to K+ and a low resting permeability to Na+.

The Goldman-Hodgkin-Katz equation can be used to predict the resting potential. Na+ is essential for the nerve action potential. The initiation of the action potential is due to the opening of voltage-dependent Na+ channels.

• Na+ inactivation and a delayed opening of K+ channels underlie the repolarization phase of the action potential.

• The slow recovery of the delayed increase in K+ conductance underlies the hyperpolarizing afterpotential.

• No significant changes in the intracellular concentrations of Na+ or K+ occur during an action potential.

• Action potentials have absolute and relative refractory periods, and are affected by neuro-toxins.

Essential Medical Physiology, Third Edition

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