The compound action potential of the unmedullated fibers arising from dorsal root ganglia, as recorded in cat skin nerves after conduction of simultaneously initiated impulses, shows among its components a temporal dispersion corresponding to velocities between 2.3 and 0.7 M.P.S. The maximum representation of the component velocities is at about 1.2 M.P.S. On both sides of the maximum the representation falls off irregularly, in such a way that groupings in the distribution produce in the action potential a configuration in which successive features appear always in the same positions at a given conduction distance. Through this demonstration of a characteristic configuration the system of the unmedullated fibers is brought into analogy with that of the medullated fibers.
The unmedullated fibers originating in the dorsal root ganglia have distinctive physiological properties, among which is a large positive potential which reaches its maximum immediately after the spike and decrements to half relaxation in about 50 msec., at 37°C. The positive phases of the unit potentials in the compound action potential, owing to their duration, sum to a much greater extent than the temporally dispersed spikes; and, since they have sizes such that one equivalent to 25 per cent of the spike height would not be at the limit, in the summation process the major portion of the compound action potential is caused to be written at a potential level positive to the starting base line. The position of the spikes in the sequence can be seen in the analyses in Section III.
The course of the activity in unit fibers is subject to variation in ways affecting the positive potential. Preliminary descriptions, based on orienting experiments, of how these variations are conditioned are given in Section I. Two of the findings are particularly noteworthy. One is the high sensitivity of the dimensions of the postspike positivity to temperature in the range of temperatures at which skin nerves may be expected to function, even when the environmental temperatures of an animal are moderate. The other is the high sensitivity to conditioning by previous activity. The positivity is first decreased, then replaced by a negative potential of similar duration. Reasons have been given why it is inadvisable at the present time to call the postspike potential an after-potential.
A comparison has been made of the properties of the unmedullated fibers arising from dorsal root ganglia with those of fibers arising from sympathetic ganglia. The differences are so great that, in the interest of precision in designation, a division of the C group of fibers into two subgroups is indicated. It is suggested that the two subgroups be named respectively d.r.C and s.C.
Measurements have been made of the diameters of the d.r.C fibers in a saphenous nerve stained with silver. Graphs showing the number of fibers at each diameter are presented in Section II. In Section III there are shown constructions, from histological data, of the action potential as it would appear, after 3 cm. of conduction, with the correlation between diameter and velocity in strict linearity. The degree of fit between the constructed and recorded potentials can be seen in Fig. 18.