Comparative Physiology of the Nervous Control of Muscular Contraction

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CHAPTER 5 Comparative Physiology of Myoneural Mechanisms
THE foregoing account of the process of neuromuscular transmission and its underlying mechanisms has been derived from heterogeneous data obtained from several different preparations. Yet the assembly of these data enables us to understand only about the mechanism in a highly specialized and limited system, the ordinary skeletal apparatus of vertebrates. Most of the invertebrate phyla have not yet been examined fully, and some have not been examined at all with modern techniques. In a few cases, as in the coelenterates, which have attracted considerable attention, the new techniques unfortunately cannot be applied, but a great deal has nevertheless been learned about them from cleverly designed experiments using simple methods, followed by exhaustive deductive analysis. Extensive deviations from the vertebrate mechanism will undoubtedly be encountered and yet certain aspects of the foregoing account may reasonably be utilized in constructing a general picture. We may draw up a list of broad principles and assume provisionally that they have universal application. Already almost all the evidence from the comparative field supports this assumption. If the principles apply to all phyla, as they may, the task of the comparative physiologist will be greatly simplified.
GENERAL PRINCIPLES
The apparently universal principles on which the phenomena of neuromuscular transmission are based are as follows:
1. Each muscle cell has a very thin, surface-boundary, plasma membrane which possesses both general and special physical properties.
2. The electrical properties of the plasma membranes of all the cells in a homogeneous muscle are similar.
3. When the cells are at rest an electrical potential

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