Since membrane potential regulates the activity of nerves, muscle, and endocrine cells, and many drugs alter the membrane potential, an understanding of the general concepts for the regulation of membrane potential is important. Yet, membrane potentials and ion gradients are often tough areas for students to understand. Analogies can be helpful; for example, Cardozo (2) recently provided a spring analogy for membrane potential. However, in my experience, part of the difficulty probably relates to an adverse reaction to physics and math terms; another part of the problem is just the new technical terms that make it difficult for the students to decipher the concepts. For some of these students, springs may not be enough of an improvement. I have found that a qualitative understanding is facilitated by providing a demonstration and a series of analogies.


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