Phase space methods and an analog computer are used to analyze the Hodgkin-Huxley non-linear differential equations for the squid giant axon membrane. V is the membrane potential, m the Na+ activation, h the Na+ inactivation, and n the K+ activation. V and m change rapidly, relative to h and n. The (V, m) phase plane of a reduced system of equations, with h and n held constant at their resting values, has three singular points: a stable resting point, a threshold saddle point, and a stable excited point. When h and n are allowed to vary, recovery and refractoriness result from the movement with subsequent disappearance of the threshold and excited points. Multiplying the time constant of n by 100 or more, and that of h by one-third, reproduces the experimental plateau action potentials obtained with tetraethylammonium by Tasaki and Hagiwara, including the phenomena of abolition and of refractoriness of the plateau duration. The equations have, transiently, two stable states, as found in the real axon by these authors. Since the theoretical membrane conductance curves differ significantly from the experimental ones, further experimental analysis of ionic currents with tetraethylammonium is needed to decide whether the Hodgkin-Huxley model can be generalized to explain these experiments completely.

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