Anoxia-Induced Changes in Action Potential Propagation in a Non-Myelinated Axon
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Processing information in the nervous system is energetically expensive, constraining the ability of the system to survive disturbances caused by stress. While some organisms compensate for extreme changes in the abiotic features of their environment, the mechanisms underlying this are poorly understood. We used the locust Descending Contralateral Movement Detector (DCMD) neuron to study how the propagation characteristics of action potentials (APs) change following an acute energy stress in control and heat shock (HS) pre-treated animals. We also attempted to determine if Ca2+ is involved in the DCMD AP and the possible changes indicated above. Conduction velocity decreased over an hour of recording in all groups, except those with minimal dissections, and we observed an increase in AP half-width and a decrease in the slope of the rising phase of the AP over time. After HS pre-treatment the response to a standard looming stimulus was delayed, showed significantly fewer APs and a lower peak frequency compared to controls. Brief application of sodium azide (NaN3) as an acute metabolic inhibitor did not subsequently affect DCMD’s conduction velocity or ability to fire at high frequencies during the recording period. There were no significant differences from control animals with extracellular Ca2+ manipulations; however we cannot conclude that Ca2+ does not contribute to DCMD’s AP because Na+ could have flowed through Ca2+ channels in the absence of extracellular Ca2+. Furthermore, examination of possible performance impairments with decreased Ca2+ currents, to indicate if Ca2+ current manipulation may account for the performance impairment, could not be conducted because no differences in AP characteristics were observed with Ca2+ manipulations. We suggest that the slowing of propagation in all groups represents a response to energetic stress and that HS modifies neuronal properties in ways that can be interpreted as saving energy in case of future stressors.