2-Minute Neuroscience: Action Potential
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  • Release Date: 2024-05-13
  • neurons
  • neurotransmitter
  • signaling
Video Introduction

The content is sourced from: https://youtu.be/W2hHt_PXe5o

The action potential is a momentary reversal of membrane potential that is the basis for signaling within neurons. If you’re unfamiliar with membrane potential, you may want to watch the video on membrane potential before watching this video.

The resting membrane potential of a neuron is around -70 mV. When neurotransmitters bind to receptors on the dendrites of a neuron, they can have an effect on the neuron known as depolarization. This means that they make the membrane potential less polarized, or cause it to move closer to 0.

This chart shows membrane potential on the y axis and time on the x axis. When neurotransmitters interacting with receptors causes repeated depolarization of the neuron, eventually the neuron reaches what is known as its threshold membrane potential. In a neuron with a membrane potential of -70 mV, this is generally around -55 mV. 

When threshold is reached, a large number of sodium channels open, allowing positively charged sodium ions into the cell. This causes massive depolarization of the neuron as the membrane potential reaches 0 and then becomes positive. This is known as the rising phase of the action potential. This influx of positive ions initiates the action potential, which then travels down the neuron.

Eventually the action potential reaches its peak, sodium channels close and potassium channels open, which allow potassium to flow out of the cell. This loss of positive potassium ions promotes repolarization which is known as the falling phase of the action potential. The neuron returns to resting membrane potential, but actually to overshoots it and the cell becomes hyperpolarized. During this phase, known as the refractory period, it is very difficult to cause the neuron to fire again. Eventually the potassium channels close and the membrane returns to resting membrane potential, ready to be activated again. The signal generated by the action potential travels down the neuron and can cause the release of neurotransmitter at the axon terminals to pass the signal to the next neuron. [1]


  1. Purves D, Augustine GJ, Fitzpatrick D, Hall WC, Lamantia AS, McNamara JO, White LE. Neuroscience. 4th ed. Sunderland, MA. Sinauer Associates; 2008.
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Challenged, N. 2-Minute Neuroscience: Action Potential. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1255 (accessed on 21 May 2024).
Challenged N. 2-Minute Neuroscience: Action Potential. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1255. Accessed May 21, 2024.
Challenged, Neuroscientifically. "2-Minute Neuroscience: Action Potential" Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1255 (accessed May 21, 2024).
Challenged, N. (2024, May 13). 2-Minute Neuroscience: Action Potential. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1255
Challenged, Neuroscientifically. "2-Minute Neuroscience: Action Potential." Encyclopedia. Web. 13 May, 2024.
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