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Du Bois Reymond's Law of Excitation

Online exhibition looking at how electricity in a medical capacity has developed from the Antiquities through to the early twentieth century. Quack treatments are examined alongside studies of anatomy and x-rays.

Du Bois Reymond's outstanding contribution to electro-physiology was the establishment of the law that excitation of contraction does not depend on the density of the current but on its rate of change. Therefore, it was not necessary to break the current with a constant fluctuation being sufficient to induce contraction. He showed that as the current flows along the nerve there is a change in its electrical state (electrolysis), and the current passes in both directions from the place of excitation to the muscle and to the brain.

It was Wilhelm Erb though who clarified the diagnostic use of electricity in cases of paralysis by formulating the 'reaction of degeneration principle' the reaction to currents is different in degenerated muscles than in degenerated nerves.

Next page → 1892 D'Arsonval and High Frequency Currents

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