The origin of spontaneous electrical activity at the end-plate zone
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Two types of spontaneous electrical activity are present at the end-plate zone: low-voltage negative potentials that correspond to miniature end-plate potentials, and larger voltage negative-positive potentials. The electrogenic origin of the latter has been uncertain. The origin of these larger potentials was investigated in the rat phrenic nerve diaphragm preparation and in human gastrocnemius muscle just prior to intubation during administration of preoperative anesthesia. In the hemidiaphragm the larger voltage negative-positive potentials were rarely triggered by intracellular or tungsten microelectrodes. The negative-positive potentials, however, were clearly triggered by contact of the concentric needle electrode with muscle hemidiaphragm at the end-plate region. The potentials were abolished by curare. Likewise, the equivalent potentials observed at the human gastrocnemius end-plate zone were blocked by neuromuscular blocking agents. Therefore, these positive-negative discharges represent postsynaptic muscle fiber action potentials and not nerve fiber activity. They were probably presynaptically activated by mechanical irritation of the motor axon terminal and preterminal branches.
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