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Q: Does AC make neurons depolarize?

tob at world tob at world
Fri Feb 7 15:29:48 EST 1997

Can you settle a bet for me?

It is well known that neurons are electrical in nature, and a small
voltage (tenths of a volt) will artificially cause a neuron to fire.

I bet my friend that alternating current doesn't make neurons fire, he
says it does. Obviously at a few hz AC would be pretty much the same as
DC, but we both agree that we are talking about AC frequencies like 1
Mhz (one million cycles per second). We also agreed that we're talking
about the same magnitude of voltage as works for DC, tenths of a volt.

He says, if the voltage is there, no matter how briefly, it should
depolarize and not undepolarize when the voltage reverses.

I say the voltage reverses faster than the time it takes a neuron to
depolarize. I also say that if that were so, we would go epileptic every
time we were near a radio transmitter, since electromagnetic waves of a
few watts passing through our skulls have an instantaneous voltage that
meets the conditions of the bet.

Who's right and why? Thanks.


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