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The semipermeable membrane of a cell is shown, with different concentrations of potassium cations, sodium cations, and chloride anions inside and outside the cell. The ions are represented by small, colored circles. In its resting state, the cell membrane is permeable to potassium and chloride ions, but it is impermeable to sodium ions. By diffusion, potassium cations travel out of the cell, going through the cell membrane and forming a layer of positive charge on the outer surface of the membrane. By diffusion, chloride anions go into the cell, going through the cell membrane and forming a layer of negative charge on the inner surface of the membrane. As a result, a voltage is set up across the cell membrane. The Coulomb force prevents all the ions from crossing the membrane.
The semipermeable membrane of a cell has different concentrations of ions inside and out. Diffusion moves the K + size 12{"K" rSup { size 8{+{}} } } {} and Cl - size 12{"Cl" rSup { size 8{ +- {}} } } {} ions in the direction shown, until the Coulomb force halts further transfer. This results in a layer of positive charge on the outside, a layer of negative charge on the inside, and thus a voltage across the cell membrane. The membrane is normally impermeable to Na + size 12{"Na" rSup { size 8{+{}} } } {} .
This is a graphical representation of a pulse of voltage, or action potential, inside a nerve cell. The voltage in millivolts is plotted along the vertical axis and the time in milliseconds is plotted along the horizontal axis. Initially, between zero and about two point eight milliseconds, the voltage is a constant at about minus ninety millivolts, corresponding to the resting state. Above this section of the graph, a window shows a small cross-section of the cell membrane, with a positively charged outer surface, a negatively charged inner surface, and no ions moving across the membrane. Between two point eight and four point two milliseconds, the voltage increases to a peak of fifty millivolts, corresponding to depolarization of the membrane. A window above this section shows sodium cations crossing the membrane, from outside to inside the cell, so that the membrane’s inner surface acquires a positive charge and its outer surface has a negative charge. Between about four point two and about five point five milliseconds, the voltage drops to a low of about minus one hundred and ten millivolts, corresponding to repolarization of the membrane. A window above this section shows potassium cations crossing the membrane, from inside to outside the cell, so that the membrane’s outer surface again acquires a positive charge and its inner surface has a negative charge. After that, the voltage rises slightly, going back to a constant of about minus ninety millivolts, corresponding to the resting state. This movement of sodium and potassium ions across the membrane is called active transport, and long-term active transport is shown in a window above the final part of the curve.
An action potential is the pulse of voltage inside a nerve cell graphed here. It is caused by movements of ions across the cell membrane as shown. Depolarization occurs when a stimulus makes the membrane permeable to Na + size 12{"Na" rSup { size 8{+{}} } } {} ions. Repolarization follows as the membrane again becomes impermeable to Na + , size 12{"Na" rSup { size 8{+{}} } } {} and K + size 12{"K" rSup { size 8{+{}} } } {} moves from high to low concentration. In the long term, active transport slowly maintains the concentration differences, but the cell may fire hundreds of times in rapid succession without seriously depleting them.

The separation of charge creates a potential difference of 70 to 90 mV across the cell membrane. While this is a small voltage, the resulting electric field ( E = V / d size 12{E = V/d} {} ) across the only 8-nm-thick membrane is immense (on the order of 11 MV/m!) and has fundamental effects on its structure and permeability. Now, if the exterior of a neuron is taken to be at 0 V, then the interior has a resting potential of about –90 mV. Such voltages are created across the membranes of almost all types of animal cells but are largest in nerve and muscle cells. In fact, fully 25% of the energy used by cells goes toward creating and maintaining these potentials.

Electric currents along the cell membrane are created by any stimulus that changes the membrane’s permeability. The membrane thus temporarily becomes permeable to Na + size 12{"Na" rSup { size 8{+{}} } } {} , which then rushes in, driven both by diffusion and the Coulomb force. This inrush of Na + size 12{"Na" rSup { size 8{+{}} } } {} first neutralizes the inside membrane, or depolarizes it, and then makes it slightly positive. The depolarization causes the membrane to again become impermeable to Na + size 12{"Na" rSup { size 8{+{}} } } {} , and the movement of K + size 12{"K" rSup { size 8{+{}} } } {} quickly returns the cell to its resting potential, or repolarizes it. This sequence of events results in a voltage pulse, called the action potential . (See [link] .) Only small fractions of the ions move, so that the cell can fire many hundreds of times without depleting the excess concentrations of Na + size 12{"Na" rSup { size 8{+{}} } } {} and K + size 12{"K" rSup { size 8{+{}} } } {} . Eventually, the cell must replenish these ions to maintain the concentration differences that create bioelectricity. This sodium-potassium pump is an example of active transport , wherein cell energy is used to move ions across membranes against diffusion gradients and the Coulomb force.

The action potential is a voltage pulse at one location on a cell membrane. How does it get transmitted along the cell membrane, and in particular down an axon, as a nerve impulse? The answer is that the changing voltage and electric fields affect the permeability of the adjacent cell membrane, so that the same process takes place there. The adjacent membrane depolarizes, affecting the membrane further down, and so on, as illustrated in [link] . Thus the action potential stimulated at one location triggers a nerve impulse that moves slowly (about 1 m/s) along the cell membrane.

Questions & Answers

what work done
Dennis Reply
work done is the product of force and distance moved in the direction of force
Gift
Work done = force (F) * distance (D)
abdulsalam
explain the three laws of isaac Newton with the reference
glory Reply
1st law ; a body will continue to stay at a state of rest or continue to move at a uniform motion on a straight line unless an external force is been acted upon
Austine
3rd law; in every action there is an equal or opposite reaction
Austine
2nd law: F=ma
Austine
why am i not having access to the Link in your exemples /figures ?
Augustine Reply
what is circut
hasiya Reply
newtons law of motion
hasiya
First law:In an inertial frame of reference, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force.
Manan
is the ability to do work
Adjah Reply
Energy
Nwany
u from
Hejreen
any body online hain
Hejreen
ability to do work is energy
Irshad
what is energy
Mercy Reply
energy is ability of the capacity to doing work
shafiu
what is vector
mosco Reply
A quantity that has both magnitude and direction
Donaldo
can a body with out mass float in space
mosco
Is the quantity that has both magnitude and direction
Amoah
Yes it can float in space,e.g.polyethene has no mass that's why it can float in space
Amoah
that's my suggestion,any other explanation can be given also,thanks
Amoah
A charge of 1.6*10^-6C is placed in a uniform electric field in a density 2*5^10Nc^-1, what is the magnitude of the electric force exerted on the charge?
Omotosho Reply
what's phenomena
Enoch Reply
Phenomena is an observable fact or event.
Love
Prove that 1/d+1/v=1/f
James Reply
What interference
Moyinoluwa Reply
What is a polarized light called?
Moyinoluwa
what is a half life
Mama Reply
the time taken for a radioactive element to decay by half of its original mass
ken
what is radioactive element
mohammed
Half of the total time required by a radioactive nuclear atom to totally disintegrate
Justice
radioactive elements are those with unstable nuclei(ie have protons more than neutrons, or neutrons more than protons
Justice
in other words, the radioactive atom or elements have unequal number of protons to neutrons.
Justice
state the laws of refraction
Fabian
state laws of reflection
Fabian
Why does a bicycle rider bends towards the corner when is turning?
Mac
When do we say that the stone thrown vertically up wards accelerate negatively?
Mac
Give two importance of insulator placed between plates of a capacitor.
Mac
Macho had a shoe with a big sole moving in mudy Road, shanitah had a shoe with a small sole. Give reasons for those two cases.
Mac
when was the name taken from
Biola Reply
retardation of a car
Biola
when was the name retardation taken
Biola
did you mean a motion with velocity decreases uniformly by the time? then, the vector acceleration is opposite direction with vector velocity
Sphere
what's velocity
mosco
Velocity is the rate of change of displacement
Divya
Atomic transmutation
Basirat Reply
An atom is the smallest indivisible particular of an element
mosco Reply
Practice Key Terms 4

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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