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T. Heimburg and A. D. Jackson. 2007. On the action potential as a propagating density pulse and the role of anesthetics
Biophys. Rev. Lett. (in print) , abstract58

The Hodgkin-Huxley model of nerve pulse propagation relies on ion currents through specific resistors called ion channels. We discuss a number of classical thermodynamic findings on nerves that are not contained in this classical theory. Particularly striking is the finding of reversible heat changes, thickness and phase changes of the membrane during the action potential. Data on various nerves rather suggest that a reversible density pulse accompanies the action potential of nerves. Here, we attempted to explain these phenomena by propagating solitons that depend on the presence of cooperative phase transitions in the nerve membrane. These transitions are, however, strongly influenced by the presence of anesthetics. Therefore, the thermodynamic theory of nerve pulses suggests a explanation for the famous Meyer-Overton rule that states that the critical anesthetic dose is linearly related to the solubility of the drug in the membranes.