Galvani's Spark: The Story of the Nerve Impulse

Galvani's Spark: The Story of the Nerve Impulse

by Alan McComas

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Galvani's Spark: The Story of the Nerve Impulse by Alan McComas

Galvani's Spark chronicles the gradual understanding of the nerve impulse which is the basis of all thoughts, sensations and actions. The story begins with Luigi Galvani's chance observation of a spark from a friction machine causing a frog's leg to twitch from across the room. The accurate recording and the understanding of the properties of the nerve fiber membrane that makes the impulse possible became the objectives of neuroscientists for over 200 years.

The author, Alan J. McComas finely interweaves the stories, the challenges, and the controversies of the most prominent figures in neuroscience, from the histological descriptions of nerve cells by Cajal to the discovery of a three-dimensional structure of ion channels in cell membranes by MacKinnon. Along the way he details the first recordings of the impulse with a cathode ray oscilloscope by Gasser and Erlanger, Adrian's discovery that stimulus intensity is coded by the frequency of nerve impulses, and Hodgkin and Huxley's brilliant voltage clamp experiments, amongst many others.

The recognition by Galvani that muscles and nerves have an electrical component triggered the field of neurophysiology and in turn has produced some of the greatest discoveries in neuroscience. 16 investigators of the nerve impulse went on to win or share Nobel prizes and this book not only emphasizes their work but also traces their brilliant careers. For anyone interested in the nervous system and the history of neuroscience, Galvani's Spark: The Story of the Nerve Impulse is essential reading.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199751754
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date: 08/08/2011
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Dr. Alan J. McComas was born in Bruce Rock in Western Australia and immigrated to the United Kingdom where he attended Great Yarmouth Grammar School. He received both his BSc in physiology and MBBS from Durham University in the UK and was trained at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne, the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London, and the Department of Physiology at the University College London. After successive positions at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, in 1971 he became Professor of Medicine (Neurology) at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. In 1988, he also became the Founding Chair in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University. Since 1996 he has held the position of Emeritus Professor of Medicine.

Dr. McComas has pursued a successful career in medicine and physiology. His research accomplishments include some of the earliest microelectrode studies of muscle diseases, the electrophysiological estimation of numbers of human motor nerve fibers, and, more recently, the demonstration that magnetic stimulation of the brain may abort migraine attacks. In 2001, he achieved the Distinguished Researcher Award of the American Association of Electrodiagnostic Medicine. He was also awarded a Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 2005. On two occasions, he has been peer-ranked in the top 2% of doctors in North America. He has authored or coauthored seven books.

Table of Contents


Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: The Spark

Chapter 3: Catching Up

Chapter 4: The Anatomist's Eye

Chapter 5: Cambridge, 1904. The Engineer

Chapter 6: The Cathode Ray Oscilloscope

Chapter 7: The Code

Chapter 8: Excitation and Inhibition

Chapter 9: The Messengers

Chapter 10: The Squid Giant Axon

Chapter 11: The Neuromuscular Junction

Chapter 12: The Giant Axon Impaled

Chapter 13: The War Years

Chapter 14: Sodium Unmasked

Chapter 15: The Voltage Clamp

Chapter 16: Aftermath

Chapter 17: Muscle: the New Physiology

Chapter 18: More Triumphs with Microelectrodes

Chapter 19: The Single Ion Channel

Chapter 20: Myotonic Goats and Migraines

Chapter 21: The Swinging Gate

Chapter 22: Departures

Chapter 23: Postscript




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