Letter | Published:

Electric Fields in Perfused Nerves

Naturevolume 214pages393394 (1967) | Download Citation



IN perfusion experiments with squid giant axons, the internal potassium concentration Ki can be reduced either by substitution of other univalent ions, so that both ionic strength si and osmolality are kept constant, or by dilution with non-electrolytes at constant osmolality. The importance of non-electrolyte perfusion in testing various models of resting potential difference (p.d.) and action potential is emphasized by the fact that there is a large range of resting potential difference (between − 25 and 0 mV) obtained by reducing Ki, in which action potentials are abolished if Ki alone has been reduced but are still obtained if si has been reduced proportionately1,2. For brevity, we shall call this the conditional range of potential difference. We can envisage various mechanisms by which lowering a high electric field across the axonal membrane can influence ionic permeabilities; all such possibilities would be lost if action potentials could still be obtained by depolarization of a low field. In order to maintain a high field across the membrane, even when the measured potential difference between inner and outer solutions is reduced by dilution of Ki with non-electrolyte, Hodgkin and Chandler3,4 introduced the new assumption that the inner surface of the membrane binds about thirty times more negative charges than are needed merely to terminate the membrane field. In this communication we propose, as an alternative, that on dilution of internal Ki with non-electrolyte, the membrane field becomes non-uniform in accord with the Planck electrodiffusion model5. The field at the inner surface of the membrane remains high even when the overall potential difference is drastically decreased by perfusion with solutions of low Ki and si.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Narahashi, T., J. Physiol., 169, 91 (1963).

  2. 2

    Chandler, W. K., and Meves, H., Arch. Ges. Physiol., 281, 25 (1964).

  3. 3

    Hodgkin, A. L., and Chandler, W. K., J. Gen. Physiol., 48, No. 5, Part 2, 27 (1965).

  4. 4

    Chandler, W. K., Hodgkin, A. L., and Meves, H., J. Physiol., 180, 821 (1965).

  5. 5

    Planck, M., Ann. Physik. Chem., 39, 161 (1890).

  6. 6

    Hodgkin, A. L., The Conduction of the Nervous Impulse (Liverpool University Press, 1964).

  7. 7

    Bass, L., Trans. Faraday Soc., 60, 1914 (1964).

  8. 8

    Hagiwara, S., and Tasaki, I., J. Gen. Physiol., 27, 859 (1957).

  9. 9

    Goldman, D. E., J. Gen. Physiol., 27, 37 (1943).

  10. 10

    Narahashi, T., J. Gen. Physiol., 48, No. 5, Part 2, 19 (1965).

  11. 11

    Tasaki, I., Singer, I., and Takenaka, T., J. Gen. Physiol., 48, 1098 (1965).

  12. 12

    Bass, L., and Moore, W. J., Proc. Australian Physiol. Soc. (abstracts of Ninth Meeting, August, 1966).

Download references

Author information

Author notes

  1. W. J. MOORE: Research Professor, Australian–American Educational Foundation.


  1. Department of Mathematics, University of Queensland, Australia

    • L. BASS
    •  & W. J. MOORE
  2. Indiana University, Bloomington, U.S.A.

    • W. J. MOORE


  1. Search for L. BASS in:

  2. Search for W. J. MOORE in:

About this article

Publication history

Issue Date



Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.