During the refractory period after an action potential, a second action potential cannot be initiated. This ensures that an impulse moves along the axon in one direction only.
The refractory period is a result of a temporary inactivation of the Na+ channels.
The refractory period is a period of “normal” repolarization when the Na+ K+ pump restores the membrane to its original polarized condition.
An action potential can travel long distances by regenerating itself along the axon.
At the site where the action potential is generated, usually the axon hillock, an electrical current depolarizes the neighboring region of the axon membrane.
Inactivated Na+ channels behind the zone of depolarization prevent the action potential from traveling backwards. Action potentials travel in only one direction: toward the synaptic terminals.
Conduction of an
The speed of an action potential increases with the axon’s diameter.
In vertebrates, axons are insulated by a myelin sheath, which causes an action potential’s speed to increase.
Myelin sheaths are made by glia— oligodendrocytes in the CNS and Schwann cells in the PNS.
Schwann cells and the myelin sheath
Node of Ranvier
Layers of myelin
Action potentials are formed only at nodes of Ranvier, gaps in the myelin sheath where voltage-gated Na+ channels are found.
Action potentials in myelinated axons jump between the nodes of Ranvier in a process called saltatory conduction.
(node of Ranvier)
At electrical synapses, the electrical current flows from one neuron to another.
At chemical synapses, a chemical neurotransmitter carries information across the gap junction = synapse.