Intracellular recordings demonstrated a transfer of impulses between the paired giant axons of Sabella, apparently along narrow axonal processes contained within the paired commissures which link the nerve cords in each segment of the body. This transfer appears not to be achieved by chemical transmission, as has been previously supposed. This is indicated by the spread of depolarizing and hyperpolarizing voltage changes between the giant axons, the lack of effects of changes in the concentrations of external divalent cations on impulse transmission and by the effects of hyperpolarization in reducing the amplitude of the depolarizing potential which precedes the action potentials in the follower axon. The ten-to-one attenuation of electronic potentials between the giant axons argues against the possibility of an exclusively passive spread of potential along the axonal processes which link the axons. Observation of impulse traffic within the nerve cord commissures indicates, on the other hand, that transmission is achieved by conduction of action potentials along the axonal processes which link the giant axons. At least four pairs of intact commissures are necessary for inter-axonal transmission, the overall density of current injected at multiple sites on the follower axon being, it is presumed, sufficient to overcome the reduction in safety factor imposed by the geometry of the system in the region where axonal processes join the giant axons. The segmental transmission between the giant axons ensures effective synchronization of impulse traffic initiated in any region of the body and, thus, co-ordination of muscular contraction, during rapid withdrawal responses of the worm.
Electrical interactions between the giant axons of a polychaete worm (Sabella penicillus L.)
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D. Mellon, J. E. Treherne, N. J. Lane, J. B. Harrison, C. K. Langley; Electrical interactions between the giant axons of a polychaete worm (Sabella penicillus L.). J Exp Biol 1 February 1980; 84 (1): 119–136. doi: https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.84.1.119
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