A direct demonstration is given of interaction between specific neurons without impulses, via graded slow potentials electrotonically spread from one cell to another. Repetitive polarizing or depolarizing current pulses of 50 to 200 msec. and subthreshold intensity were passed through an intracellular electrode in the soma of a follower cell of the isolated ganglion. When the frequency is near the natural rhythm of impulse bursts corresponding to heart beats and arising in a pacemaker cell 5 to 10 mm. posteriorly, the bursts rapidly become synchronized with the pulses. The effect disappears upon withdrawing the intracellular electrode. Brief pulses or full spikes in the follower are not effective. Hyperpolarizing long pulses attract the burst to a fixed period after the end of the pulse, depolarizations after the beginning of the pulse. The natural rhythm promptly reappears when the pulses are stopped and occasionally breaks through during weak repetitive pulses. Current pulses in postsynaptic cells also alter the threshold of a presynaptic neuron to externally applied stimuli. Some kind of direct, low resistance pathway for electrotonic spread, discriminating against spikes because of their brevity, is inferred, providing a basis for subthreshold interaction which is specific and not by way of a field effect. Due to the sensitivity of modulation of ongoing rhythms, electrotonic currents can be effective even after decrementing over several millimeters.
Modulation of Activity of One Neuron by Subthreshold Slow Potentials in Another in Lobster Cardiac Ganglion
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Akira Watanabe, Theodore H. Bullock; Modulation of Activity of One Neuron by Subthreshold Slow Potentials in Another in Lobster Cardiac Ganglion . J Gen Physiol 1 July 1960; 43 (6): 1031–1045. doi: https://doi.org/10.1085/jgp.43.6.1031
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