The critical role of logarithmic transformation in Nernstian equilibrium potential calculations

Sawyer, Jemima E.R., Hennebry, James E., Revill, Alexander and Brown, Angus M. (2017) The critical role of logarithmic transformation in Nernstian equilibrium potential calculations. Advances in Physiology Education, 41 (2). pp. 231-238. ISSN 1522-1229

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The membrane potential, arising from uneven distribution of ions across cell membranes containing selectively permeable ion channels, is of fundamental importance to cell signaling. The necessity of maintaining the membrane potential may be appreciated by expressing Ohm’s law as current = voltage/resistance and recognizing that no current flows when voltage = 0, i.e., transmembrane voltage gradients, created by uneven transmembrane ion concentrations, are an absolute requirement for the generation of currents that precipitate the action and synaptic potentials that consume >80% of the brain’s energy budget and underlie the electrical activity that defines brain function. The concept of the equilibrium potential is vital to understanding the origins of the membrane potential. The equilibrium potential defines a potential at which there is no net transmembrane ion flux, where the work created by the concentration gradient is balanced by the transmembrane voltage difference, and derives from a relationship describing the work done by the diffusion of ions down a concentration gradient. The Nernst equation predicts the equilibrium potential and, as such, is fundamental to understanding the interplay between transmembrane ion concentrations and equilibrium potentials. Logarithmic transformation of the ratio of internal and external ion concentrations lies at the heart of the Nernst equation, but most undergraduate neuroscience students have little understanding of the logarithmic function. To compound this, no current undergraduate neuroscience textbooks describe the effect of logarithmic transformation in appreciable detail, leaving the majority of students with little insight into how ion concentrations determine, or how ion perturbations alter, the membrane potential.

Item Type: Article
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Life Sciences
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Depositing User: Eprints, Support
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2017 08:21
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 18:48

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