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EXERCISE 3
Neurophysiology of Nerve Impulses
Name _______________________
Lab Time/Date ________________

ACTIVITY 1 The Resting Membrane Potential

1. Explain why increasing extracellular K+ reduces the net diffusion of K+ out of the neuron
through the K+ leak channels.

Increasing the extracellular potassium reduces the steepness of the concentration gradient
and so less potassium diffuses out of the neuron.

2. Explain why increasing extracellular K+ causes the membrane potential to change to a less
negative value. How well did the results compare with your prediction?

Dr. Crowther says: This question is nonsensical. In fact, increasing the concentration of
positive ions outside the cell membrane means that the inside has effectively become
MORE negative relative to the outside, so the membrane potential has become more
negative.

3. Explain why a change in extracellular Na+ did not alter the membrane potential in the
resting neuron.

Dr. Crowther says: This is another terrible question. Just as in the previous question,
increasing the concentration of positive ions outside the cell WOULD affect the
membrane potential it would make it more negative.

4. Discuss the relative permeability of the membrane to Na+ and K+ in a resting neuron. The
resting neuron is (45) times more permeable to potassium because of the increased
number of leakage channels.

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5. Discuss how a change in Na+ or K+ conductance would affect the resting membrane
potential.

Dr. Crowther says: The answer given by the answer key is poor, but it is hard to
provide an alternative that is correct, yet simple to understand. Lets just skip this
one.

ACTIVITY 2 Receptor Potential

1. Sensory neurons have a resting potential based on the efflux of potassium ions (as
demonstrated in Activity 1). What passive channels are likely found in the membrane of
the olfactory receptor, in the membrane of the Pacinian corpuscle, and in the membrane

of the free nerve ending? The efflux of potassium ions is maintained by passive potassium
channels.

2. What is meant by the term graded potential? Graded potentials are brief, localized changes
in the membrane potential that can be either depolarizing or hyperpolarizing.

3. Identify which of the stimulus modalities induced the largest amplitude receptor potential

in the Pacinian corpuscle. How well did the results compare with your prediction? The
moderate intensity pressure modality induced a receptor potential of the largest amplitude
in the Pacinian corpuscle.

4. Identify which of the stimulus modalities induced the largest-amplitude receptor potential

in the olfactory receptors. How well did the results compare with your prediction? The
moderate intensity chemical modality induced a receptor potential of the largest
amplitude in the olfactory receptor.

5. The olfactory receptor also contains a membrane protein that recognizes isoamyl acetate
and, via several other molecules, transduces the odor stimulus into a receptor potential.

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Does the Pacinian corpuscle likely have this isoamyl acetate receptor protein? Does the

free nerve ending likely have this isoamyl acetate receptor protein? The pacinian
corpuscle and the free nerve ending are not likely to have the isoamyl acetate receptor
because they did not respond to chemical stimuli.

6. What type of sensory neuron would likely respond to a green light? Photosensory
neurons would respond to green light.

ACTIVITY 3 The Action Potential: Threshold

1. Define the term threshold as it applies to an action potential. Threshold is the voltage that
must be reached in order to generate an action potential.

2. What change in membrane potential (depolarization or hyperpolarization) triggers an

action potential? A depolarization in the membrane potential results in an action


potential. The membrane potential must become less negative to generate an action
potential.

3. How did the action potential at R1 (or R2) change as you increased the stimulus voltage

above the threshold voltage? How well did the results compare with your prediction? The
action potential didn't change as the stimulus voltage increased. This is because once
threshold is met, the event is all or none, not graded.

4. An action potential is an all-or-nothing event. Explain what is meant by this phrase.


This means that once threshold is met an action potential occurs. If the stimulus is too
small an action potential does not occur.

5. What part of a neuron was investigated in this activity? The trigger zone was
investigated. This is where the axon hillock and the initial segment come together.

448 Copyright 2014 Pearson Education, Inc.


ACTIVITY 4 The Action Potential: Importance of Voltage-Gated Na+ Channels

1. What does TTX do to voltage-gated Na+ channels? TTX blocks the diffusion of sodium
through the voltage-gated sodium channels.

2. What does lidocaine do to voltage-gated Na+ channels? How does the effect of lidocaine

differ from the effect of TTX? Lidocaine blocks the diffusion of sodium through the
voltage-gated sodium channels.

3. A nerve is a bundle of axons, and some nerves are less sensitive to lidocaine. If a nerve,
rather than an axon, had been used in the lidocaine experiment, the responses recorded at
R1 and R2 would be the sum of all the action potentials (called a compound action
potential). Would the response at R2 after lidocaine application necessarily be zero? Why

or why not? With a compound action potential, the results would not necessarily be zero
because some axons could remain unaffected.

4. Why are fewer action potentials recorded at R2 when TTX is applied between R1 and

R2? How well did the results compare with your prediction? TTX blocked the sodium
channels, preventing the propagation of the action potential from R1 to R2.

5. Why are fewer action potentials recorded at R2 when lidocaine is applied between R1 and

R2? How well did the results compare with your prediction? Lidocaine blocked the
sodium channels, preventing the propagation of the action potential from R1 to R2.

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6. Pain-sensitive neurons (called nociceptors) conduct action potentials from the skin or
teeth to sites in the brain involved in pain perception. Where should a dentist inject the

lidocaine to block pain perception? Lidocaine should be applied to the receptors to


prevent the generation of an action potential that would lead to the perception of pain.

ACTIVITY 5 The Action Potential: Measuring Its Absolute and Relative


Refractory Periods

1. Define inactivation as it applies to a voltage-gated sodium channel. Voltage-gated sodium


channels are inactivated when they no longer allow sodium to diffuse through.

2. Define the absolute refractory period. The absolute refractory period is the time in which
no action potential can be generated regardless of the strength of the stimulus.

3. How did the threshold for the second action potential change as you further decreased the

interval between the stimuli? How well did the results compare with your prediction? The
threshold for the second action potential increased as the interval between the stimuli
decreased as predicted.

4. Why is it harder to generate a second action potential during the relative refractory

period? A greater stimulus is required because voltage-gated potassium channels that


oppose depolarization are open during this time.

ACTIVITY 6 The Action Potential: Coding for Stimulus Intensity

1. Why are multiple action potentials generated in response to a long stimulus that is above

threshold? The longer stimuli allow time for recovery and the above threshold allows the
action potential to occur after the relative refractory period.

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2. Why does the frequency of action potentials increase when the stimulus intensity

increases? How well did the results compare with your prediction? Action potentials can
occur more frequently if there is a constant source of stimulation as long as the relative
refractory period is reached.

3. How does threshold change during the relative refractory period? The threshold that must
be achieved is higher than the original stimulus intensity during the relative refractory
period.

4. What is the relationship between the interspike interval and the frequency of action

potentials? The frequency of the action potentials is the reciprocal of the interspike
interval with a conversion from milliseconds to seconds.

ACTIVITY 7 The Action Potential: Conduction Velocity

1. How did the conduction velocity in the B fiber compare with that in the A fiber? How well

did the results compare with your prediction? The velocity of the B fiber was slower
because it had a smaller diameter and was less myelinated.

2. How did the conduction velocity in the C fiber compare with that in the B fiber? How

well did the results compare with your prediction? The conduction velocity of the C fiber
was slower because it has no myelination and a smaller diameter.

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3. What is the effect of axon diameter on conduction velocity? The larger the axon
diameter, the greater the conduction velocity.

4. What is the effect of the amount of myelination on conduction velocity? The greater the
myelination, the greater the
conduction velocity.

5. Why did the time between the stimulation and the action potential at R1 differ for each

axon? The time between the stimulation and the action potential at R1 differed for each
axon because the diameter and the degree of myelination varied.

6. Why did you need to change the timescale on the oscilloscope for each axon? This is
necessary in order to see the action potentials. The velocity changes so when it gets very
slow you need a longer time scale.

ACTIVITY 8 Chemical Synaptic Transmission and Neurotransmitter Release

1. When the stimulus intensity is increased, what changes: the number of synaptic vesicles

released or the amount of neurotransmitter per vesicle? The number of synaptic vesicles
released increases when the stimulus intensity increases.

2. What happened to the amount of neurotransmitter release when you switched from the
control extracellular fluid to the extracellular fluid with no Ca2+? How well did the results

compare with your prediction? Without calcium present, no neurotransmitter was released
because the exocytosis of the synaptic vesicles is dependent upon calcium.

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3. What happened to the amount of neurotransmitter release when you switched from the
extracellular fluid with no Ca2+ to the extracellular fluid with low Ca2+? How well did the

results compare with your prediction? When a small amount of calcium is added back, a
small amount of synaptic vesicles are released.

4. How did neurotransmitter release in the Mg2+ extracellular fluid compare to that in the

control extracellular fluid? How well did the result compare with your prediction? The
neurotransmitter release was less when magnesium was added.

5. How does Mg2+ block the effect of extracellular calcium on neurotransmitter release?
When magnesium is added to the
extracellular fluid it blocks the calcium channels and inhibits the release of
neurotransmitter.

ACTIVITY 9 The Action Potential: Putting It All Together

1. Why is the resting membrane potential the same value in both the sensory neuron and the

interneuron? The resting membrane potential is the same value because this is the typical
resting membrane potential regardless of the type of neuron.

2. Describe what happened when you applied a very weak stimulus to the sensory receptor.

How well did the results compare with your prediction? When you applied a very weak
stimulus to the sensory receptor, a small, depolarizing response occurred at R1, and no
responses occurred at R2, R3, and R4.

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3. Describe what happened when you applied a moderate stimulus to the sensory receptor.

How well did the results compare with your prediction? When you applied a moderate
stimulus to the sensory receptor, a larger, depolarizing response occurred at R1, and an
action potential was generated at R2 and at R4.

4. Identify the type of membrane potential (graded receptor potential or action potential)
that occurred at R1, R2, R3, and R4 when you applied a moderate stimulus. (View the

response to the stimulus.) Action potentials occurred at R2 and R4 and graded receptor
potentials occurred at R1 and R3.

5. Describe what happened when you applied a strong stimulus to the sensory receptor.

How well did the results compare with your prediction? When you applied a strong
stimulus to the sensory receptor, a large, depolarizing response occurred at R1 and R3,
and action potentials occurred at R2 and R4.

454 Copyright 2014 Pearson Education, Inc.