Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 22

Physics Of Nervous system

Amar Alansi
M.Sc BioPhysics
Nervous system
Nervous system controls all the activities of the body.
It is quicker then other control system in the body
Nervous system is divided into two parts:

1- Central Nervous System (CNS):

It is includes brain and spinal cord
It is formed by neurons and supporting cells called neuroglia

2- Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)

It is formed by neurons and their processes present in all regions of the
It consists of cranial nerves, arising from brain and spinal nerves, arising
from the spinal cord
Neuron or nerve cell is defined as the structural and functional unit of nervous system
Neuron is similar to any other cell in the body, having nucleus and all the organelles in cytoplasm
It is different from other cells by two ways
1- Neuron has branches or processes called axon and dendrites
2- Neuron can not undergo division
Neurons whose axons travel from sensing areas to the spinal cord are called afferent neurons or
input or sensory neurons
There are approximately 10 million afferent neurons, 100 billion neurons in the brain, and a half a
million efferent neurons
There are approximately 1 2 106 optical nerves from the 1 2 108 rods and cones in our eyes
20,000 nerves from the 30,000 hair cells in our ears
2,000 nerves from the 107 smell cells in our noses
2,000 nerves from the 108 taste sensing cells in our tongues
Structure of Neuron
Neuron is made up of three parts:
1- Nerve cell body
2- Dendrite
3- Axon
Dendrites are short processes whereas the axons are long
Dendrites and axons are usually called nerve fibers
Myelinated and Unmyelinated Axons
Non-myelinated nerve fiber: it is defined as nerve fiber which is
not covered by myelin sheath
Approximately 2/3 of the axon fibers in the body are unmyelinated
They have radii of 0.050.6 m
Conduction Speed of u (in m/s) 1.8 a, where a is the radius of the
axon (in m)
Myelinated nerve fiber: it is nerve fiber which is insulated by
myelin sheath.
The myelin sheath is not continuous but is interrupted every 0.3-1.5
mm. this interruptions in the myelin sheath are the nodes of
Ranvier (not covered with myelin)
Myelinated fibers have outer radii of 0.510 m
Conduction Speed of u (in m/s) 12(a + b) 17a, where b is the
myelin sheath thickness (in m) (and a + b is the total axon
The spacing between the nodes of Ranvier is 280a
Propagation of action potentials
Velocity of impulse through a nerve
fiber is directly proportional to the
thickness of the fiber
An Action Potential
Graded potentials are minor perturbations in
the membrane potential due to the binding of
neurotransmitters, the stimulation of sensory
reception, or spontaneous ion leakage
through the cell membrane
Graded potentials can be either membrane
depolarizations or hyperpolarizations
Action potential is defined as a series of
electrical changes that occur in the membrane
potential when the muscle or nerve is
What is the differences between electrical
potential in nerve fiber and muscle fiber ?
Axon as an Electric Cable
we must take into account the resistance of the fluids both inside and
outside the axon and the electrical properties of the axon membrane.
Because the membrane is a leaky insulator, it is characterized by both
capacitance and resistance.
When a potential difference is set up between the inside and the
outside of the axon, four currents can be identified: the current outside
the axon, the current inside the axon, the current through the resistive
component of the membrane, and the current through the capacitive
component of the membrane
the resistances of the outside and of the inside fluids are Ro and Ri,
respectively. The membrane capacitance and resistance are Cm and Rm
The capacitance C depends on the geometry of these two structures.
For example, they could be two parallel plates or two concentric
cylinders which is similar to the axon of a neuron
Cell Membranes and Ion Distributions
Na+, K+, Cl, negatively-charged proteins, and other charged species both in the neurons
(intracellular) and in the extracellular medium
Several driving forces that determine the ionic concentrations:
1- Force of Diffusion: flow of species from the regions of higher concentration to regions of lower
concentrations, to equalize the intracellular and extracellular concentrations
J diff = D diff ( Ficks First Law of Diffusion )
Jdiff (m-2 s-1)is the flux of ions in the x direction (the number of ions flowing across a unit area in a
unit time), Ddiff (m2s-1)is the diffusion constant, n (m-3)is the local concentration of ions, and dn/dx
(m-4) is the local concentration gradient
2- Electric force: When charged species are in an electric field, they get accelerated and eventually
attain a steady-state drift velocity vdrift because of collisions that act as a drag force. the drift
velocity of ion is vdrift = E where (m2v-1s-1)is called the mobility and E (N/C)is the electric field
The flux of ions due to this electric field is
= drift n E
J elect n=
3- Force of pump: The cell membranes are permeable to K+ and Cl. Proteins are never permeable
to the cell membrane. The chemical mechanism called the Na+ pump (or the Na+- K+ pump)
actively transports 3Na+ from inside to outside the cell for every 2K+ it transports from outside to
inside the cell
The high Na+ concentration outside the cell is the result of the Na+ pump fighting against the driving
electrical forces and the tendency to equalize concentrations
The high K+ concentration inside the cell is the result of the electric forces and the Na+ pump
fighting against the tendency to equalize concentrations
The high Cl concentration outside the cell is the result of the electrical forces fighting against the
tendency to equalize concentrations
Ionic Distributions
The jflux (A/m2)charge flux (or current density) is the ion charge the ion flux
q ( J diff , + + J elect , + ) =
For the positive ion: j flux , + = q D diff , + + q n + E

q ( J diff , + J elect , ) =
For the negative ion: j flux , = q D diff , + q n E
The total current density is
q ( D diff , + D diff , )
j flux = + q n ( + + ) E (Nernst-Planck equation)
We can also be written as
D diff , + D diff , d ( ln n )
j flux = q n ( + + ) E
+ + dx

When there is not current flow jflux =0 then

D diff , + D diff , d ( ln n )
E = H.W.
+ + dx
The voltage between two points, such as from the inside (with subscript i) of the membrane to
the outside inside
D diff , + Ddiff , n
V =
V i V o =
E dx V =
+ +
ln i

By using Einstein relation Ddiff = kBT/q (Boltzmann constant kB=1.3810-23J/K), then

k B T + n i
V = ln
q + + no ( Nernst equation )
If the negative ions is impermeable ( -)

k B T ni
V = ln
q no
The charge q = Z e, where e is the magnitude of an elementary charge (electron or proton)
(e=1.610-19C), then
ni Z e (V i V o )
= Exp
no kBT
This ratio is known as the Donnan ratio ( Donnan equilibrium)
Donnan ratio includes the physics of the first two driving forces (Force of Diffusion, Electric
force), as well as the physics of thermal equilibration
For the resting potential Vi Vo = 70mV at T = 310K (core body temperature)
If Z = +1, ni/no = 13.7 H.W.
Na+ this ratio is 15/145 = 0.103, K+ it is 150/5 = 30
If Z = 1, ni/no = 1/13.7 = 0.073 H.W.
Cl this ratio is 9/125 = 0.072
The theoretical Nernst potential VNernst is the potential that would lead the observed
concentration ratios
ni Z eV Nernest
= Exp
no observed kBT
For Na+ it is 61 mV, for K+ it is 91 mV, and for Cl it is 70 mV
When the Nernst equation is generalized to include the effects of many ions, such as Na+, K+,
and Cl, and membrane permeability
k B T p Na n Na , i + p K n K , i + pCl nCl , i (Goldman Voltage equation)
V = ln
q p Na n Na ,o + p K n K ,o + pCl nCl ,o

pi is membrane permeabilities
For neurons and sensory cells the permeability for Cl is so small that it can often be neglected,
and we find:
k B T p Na n Na , i + p K n K , i k B T n Na , i + n K , i
V = ln = ln
q p Na n Na ,o + p K n K ,o q n Na ,o + n K ,o

= pNa/pK = 0.02
Physical Properties of Neurons and Nerves
The resistivity for an unmyelinated nerve is typically i = 0.5 ohm m, and the axon radius is a =
5106 m, and so the resistivity inside the axon per unit length along the axon is
R i 0.5 ohm m
ri = = = = 6.4 103 ohm / m
6.4 109 ohm / m =
L a ( 5 106 m )
2 2

The resistivity of the membrane is m = 1.6 107 ohm m, the membrane thickness is b = 6 109
m, and the cross-sectional area of the membrane normal to the axon axis is A = 2ab. Therefore,
the membrane resistivity per unit length along the axon is

m 1.6 107 ohm m

rm = =6 =
8 1019
ohm / m =
8 1013
ohm / m
2 ab 2 5 10 m 6 10 m

The conductance per unit area is

gm =
m b
where conductance is the reciprocal of the resistance (units S(siemens)/m2, 1 S = 1mho )
For two parallel plates with area A separated a distance b by an insulator with dielectric constant

Q Qb Q 0 A
E E= = ,=
V b=
E C parallel plates= =
0 0 A 0 A then V b
Because the axon radius a of an unmyelinated axon is much greater than the membrane thickness
b, the cylindrical membrane can be unrolled along its length and modeled very successfully as a
plane parallel capacitor, with plate separation b and area A = a L, where L is the length of the axon
unit. The material in the axon membrane has dielectric constant =7, so with electrical permittivity
0 = 8.851012 s/ohm m(units H.W.), we see that 0 = 6.201011 s/ohm m. the capacitance per
unit length of an unmyelinated axon is
C parallel plates 0 a 6.2 1011 sec/ ohm m 5 106 m 7
C parallelplates , per length = = = = 3 10 F /m
L b 6 109 m
and that per unit area is
C parallel plates 0 6.2 1011 sec/ ohm m
c parallel plates = = 9
= 0.01F / m 2
La b 6 10 m
The charge density at the surface of the membrane is

= = 7 104C / m 2
The thickness of the cell membrane is 5-6 nm, if it covered with myelin it is 2 m
dV 70 103V
E =
1.17 107V / m
dx 6 10 m
Thank you