2-Minute Neuroscience: Membrane Potential
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  • Release Date: 2024-05-13
  • neuron
  • human brain
  • nervous system
  • sodium-potassium pump
  • membrane
Video Introduction

The content is sourced from: https://youtu.be/tIzF2tWy6KI

Membrane potential refers to the difference in electrical charge between the inside and outside of a neuron. This is the plasma or cell membrane of the neuron. It separates the inside of the cell from the outside environment; we’ll say this is the inside and this is the outside of the neuron. The difference in electrical charge develops due to the grouping of ions on the inside and outside of the membrane. Ions are atoms that have either lost or gained electrons and thus have a positive or negative charge.

There are a variety of ions found in the human body; several play an important role in the membrane potential of neurons. There are positively charged sodium ions, represented by these blue circles and negatively charged chloride ions, represented by these green circles. When a neuron is at rest, the sodium ions and chloride ions are more prevalent outside of the cell. There are also positively charged potassium ions, represented by these yellow circles and various negatively charged ions, often referred to as organic anions represented by these grey circles (anion is simply a term for a negatively charged ion). When a neuron is at rest, the potassium ions and organic anions are more prevalent inside the cell. At rest, the inside of the neuron is more negatively charged than the outside, causing the resting membrane potential of an average neuron to be around -70 mV. 

One way this potential is maintained is through a mechanism known as the sodium-potassium pump. This is a transport protein that uses energy to constantly pump three sodium ions out of the cell while at the same time pumping two potassium ions into the cell. Because there are more positive ions being pumped out than negative, it helps to keep the membrane potential negative. Unlike other ions, potassium tends to move fairly easily across the cell membrane through ion channels, which are membrane spanning proteins that allow ions to pass through. Potassium will pass out of the neuron until it reaches the point where it is at an equilibrium---when forces like diffusion aren’t pushing it in one direction or the other. At this point, the membrane potential of the neuron is around -65 to -70 mV, which is known as the resting membrane potential. [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: Membrane Potential. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1256 (accessed on 25 May 2024).
Challenged N. 2-Minute Neuroscience: Membrane Potential. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1256. Accessed May 25, 2024.
Challenged, Neuroscientifically. "2-Minute Neuroscience: Membrane Potential" Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1256 (accessed May 25, 2024).
Challenged, N. (2024, May 13). 2-Minute Neuroscience: Membrane Potential. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1256
Challenged, Neuroscientifically. "2-Minute Neuroscience: Membrane Potential." Encyclopedia. Web. 13 May, 2024.
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