Following tetanic afferent stimulation of a monosynaptic reflex pathway, the transmission through that pathway of isolated reflex volleys is enhanced for some minutes. Post-tetanic potentiation is comparable in the monosynaptic reflex arcs of flexor and extensor muscles. The facilitator and inhibitor actions of monosynaptic reflex afferent fibers, as well as the transmitter action, are potentiated following tetanization. Little post-tetanic change attends reflex transmission through plurisynaptic reflex arcs.
Various tests for excitability change made independently of the tetanized afferent fibers reveal none or a slight depression. Hence the potentiating influence of a tetanus is limited to subsequent action on the part of the recently tetanized fibers themselves. Increase in the size of the individual impulses comprising an afferent volley such as might occur during positive after-potential, would accommodate the requirement for a limited process and provide for increased synaptic action. The proposed association between post-tetanic potentiation and positive after-potential (i.e. hyperpolarization) is supported by the following lines of evidence:—
1. Changes in intensity and duration of potentiation with change in frequency and duration of tetanic stimulation are characteristic of, and parallel to, the changes of positive after-potential in similar circumstances.
2. Afferent impulses are increased following a tetanus, and in a fashion that parallels the course of monosynaptic reflex potentiation.
Post-tetanic potentiation, as here described, and after-discharge, whatever may be its mechanism, are unrelated phenomena.