Myelin Function and Saltatory Conduction
The need for rapid conduction of the nerve impulse serves as a driving force that can determine and increase animal size. For an axon without myelin, the speed of impulse conduction is proportional to the diameter1/2. Therefore, in order to achieve a faster rate of conduction, species that lack myelin have to enlarge substantially their axons. Higher species achieve high conduction velocities by ensheathment with myelin and by strategically positioning ion channels along the length of myelinated axons. This chapter discusses the role of myelin in the conduction of nerve impulses within the vertebrate nervous system, pathophysiological consequences of demyelination, and the molecular reorganization within the axonal membrane following demyelination.
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