(Nature, Volume 440, Number 7087, 2006)
Every living cell maintains a voltage difference across its cell membrane. Nerve cells distinguish themselves from other cells in that they use this voltage difference to process and transmit messages. When a nerve cell receives an impulse, the voltage across the cell membrane is reversed. This "action potential" spreads out through the long appendages of the cell with high speed. At the end of the appendages it is transmitted to other cells. In 1952, Alan Lloyd Hodgkin and Andrew Fielding Huxley described in a mathematical model how such an action potential originates on the basis of measurements on neurons of the squid. The Hodgkin-Huxley model, for which the scientists later received the Nobel Prize, has since then served to explain the signal processes in all neurons.
According to the Hodgkin-Huxley model, an action potential is initiated when the voltage across the membrane of the nerve cell reaches to a certain threshold value. Voltage gated sodium channels react to this voltage change by opening up and triggering an avalanche-like reactio
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