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Biophysical Bases of Electrotherapy by Alex Ward

By Alex Ward

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NERVE FIBRE IMPEDANCE The electrical properties of nerve fibres are analogous to those of skin and underlying tissue. The nerve fibre membrane, like the membrane of all cells, is a phospholipid bilayer with an embedded patchwork or mosaic of protein molecules. This fluid-mosaic structure, illustrated alongside, explains the measured electrical properties. Orange shapes are the polar, high-water-content, protein molecules. Blue circles with two dangling chains represent the phospholipid molecules which have two long, non-polar 'tails'.

There are greater ethical problems associated with human experimentation using the same design, so such studies have not been carried-out. 85 the threshold for nerve excitation. This is because of current spreading and a consequent reduction in the local stimulus intensity. Superficially located fibres are therefore recruited at lower stimulus intensities. 10(b) shows measurements obtained with human subjects and transcutaneous electrical stimulation. Note the horizontal axis (time) scale. In this figure the pulse widths are measured in microseconds (µs) and not milliseconds as have been previously used to describe action potentials and the subsequent refractory period.

Sometimes equal size electrodes are used for transcutaneous electrical stimulation. This is often the case when electrodes are placed over a muscle belly. The cathode is positioned distally and the anode proximally. The reason for the 'cathode distal' arrangement is that an action potential generated near the cathode may not propagate through the region under the anode. The phenomenon is referred-to as anodal block. The idea is ELECTRICAL STIMULATION OF NERVE AND MUSCLE that if an action potential is generated at a particular node of Ranvier, it will normally trigger an action potential at the nodes immediately adjacent.

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