A classical model of how neurons power their chemical messages may need revision. Neurons from the rat hippocampus use three times less energy to propagate an action potential down an axon than was previously believed, according to a new study published in this week's issue of Science -- providing important clues for interpreting brain imaging techniques.
Golgi staining of pyramidal cells in
human hippocampus

Image: Wikimedia commons,
"Many people will be surprised by this," said neuroscientist linkurl:Johan Storm;http://folk.uio.no/jstorm/ of the University of Oslo, who did not participate in the research. "It was thought that action potentials were quite expensive from an energetic point of view, [but] in these axons, they have found that you have only a minimal amount of this shunting or waste of energy." More than 50 years ago, researchers Alan Lloyd Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley proposed a model for the ionic currents underlying action potentials. The...

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