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Gasser, Herbert Spencer

nerve fibres conduction erlanger

(1888–1963) US physiologist.

Gasser studied physiology in Wisconsin and in Europe; from 1935 to 1953 he directed the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York City, but in 1921–31 he was professor of pharmacology at Washington University (St Louis) and worked on nerve conduction with his former teacher Joseph Erlanger (1874–1965) had shown by 1850 that a nerve impulse was an electrical wave of negativity passing along the nerve, whose average speed was first measured by later found that nerve cells discharge rapid series of such impulses. Gasser and Erlanger, using the then newly perfected low-voltage cathode ray oscillograph, found in the 1920s that nerve fibres differed in their conduction velocities, which fell in three main groups. The thickest mammalian fibres (such as those activating the muscles) conduct at 5–100 m s –1 , while pain is felt through thin slowly conducting fibres (below 2 m s –1 ). Many other properties of nerves vary with conduction speed, and Gasser and Erlanger’s methods did much to generate new work in electrophysiology; they shared the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 1944.

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