Explain the following:
(a) Role of Na+ in the generation of action potential.
(b) Mechanism of generation of light-induced impulse in the retina.
(c) Mechanism through which a sound produces a nerve impulse in the
(a) Sodium ions play an important role in the generation of action potential. When a nerve fibre is stimulated, the membrane potential decreases. The membrane becomes more permeable to Na+ ions than to K+ ions. As a result, Na+ diffuses from the outside to the inside of the membrane. This causes the inside of the membrane to become positively-charged, while the outer membrane gains a negatively charge. This reversal of polarity across the membrane is known as depolarisation. The rapid inflow of Na+ ions causes the membrane potential to increase, thereby generating an action potential.
(b) Retina is the innermost layer of the eye. It contains three layers of cells – inner ganglion cells, middle bipolar cells, and outermost photoreceptor cells. Photoreceptor cells are composed of a protein called opsin and an aldehyde of vitamin A called retinal. When light rays are focused on the retina through the cornea, retinal gets dissociated from opsin. As a result, the structure of opsin gets changed. This in turn causes the permeability of the membrane to change, thereby generating a potential difference in the cells. Consequently, an action potential is generated in the ganglion cells and is transmitted to the visual cortex of the brain via the optic nerves. In the cortex region of the brain, the impulses are analysed and the image is formed on the retina.
(c) The pinna of the external ear collects the sound waves and directs them to the tympanic membrane (ear drum) via the external auditory canal. The ear drum then vibrates the sound waves and conducts them to the internal ear through the ear ossicles. The ear ossicles increase the intensity of the sound waves. These vibrating sound waves are conducted through the oval window to the fluid in the cochlea. Consequently, a movement is created in the lymph. This movement produces vibrations in the basilar membrane, which in turn stimulate the auditory hair cells. These cells generate a nerve impulse, conducting it to the auditory cortex of the brain via afferent fibres. The auditory cortex region interprets the nerve impulse and sound is recognised.