June 2023
Volume 64, Issue 8
Open Access
ARVO Annual Meeting Abstract  |   June 2023
Survey of Different Education Groups' Beliefs on the Speed of Electrochemical Signals in Myelinated and Unmyelinated Axons in the Human Body
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Matthew John Stern
    Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, United States
    Eye Center/ The Retina Center, Champaign, Illinois, United States
  • Samir I. Sayegh
    Eye Center/ The Retina Center, Champaign, Illinois, United States
  • Footnotes
    Commercial Relationships   Matthew Stern None; Samir Sayegh None
  • Footnotes
    Support  None
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science June 2023, Vol.64, 4428. doi:
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      Matthew John Stern, Samir I. Sayegh; Survey of Different Education Groups' Beliefs on the Speed of Electrochemical Signals in Myelinated and Unmyelinated Axons in the Human Body. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2023;64(8):4428.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Abstract

Purpose : Myelin changes the speed of electrochemical signal propagation along the axons of the human body from speeds of the order of a m/s to 100 m/s. Defects in myelin, such as in multiple sclerosis slow down these signals, which can cause severe pathology. This study was conducted to confirm the hypothesis that most individuals overestimate the speed of propagation of electrochemical signals in neurons, including myelinated neurons.

Methods : A survey was conducted on electrochemical signal speeds. Participants were divided into three groups based on their education level. Participants were first presented with a question about the speed of electrochemical signals within the body. Following this initial question, participants were given a short explanation of myelin and its functions. Participants then answered questions about the signal speed for myelinated and unmyelinated axons. For each of the three questions, participants were given the option to choose between five speed ranges.

Results : 170 individual results were collected. When high schoolers were asked the initial electrochemical propagation speed question, 93.1% chose answers that were the speed of sound (343m/s) and faster. For undergraduate students, only 13.6% selected the slower than the speed of sound option for the initial question (Table 1). After myelin information was provided, this value increased to 27.1%. For the graduate group, 25% believed that the electrochemical signals in the body traveled slower than the speed of sound. When asked about the myelinated axon speeds, there was only an underwhelming 19% of responses for speeds slower than the speed of sound (Table 2).

Conclusions : The results support our hypothesis that all education groups showed a clear overestimation of the speed of propagation of electrochemical signals in the body. Although the data showed that responses were generally in a slower range when addressing unmyelinated axons, there was still only up to 42.9% accuracy in the correct speed range. When looking at the responses for the myelinated axon speeds, each education category had roughly 20% (or 30% in the undergraduate’s case) of participants who believed that myelinated axon signals traveled faster than the speed of light, or over a million times faster than the actual speed.

This abstract was presented at the 2023 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in New Orleans, LA, April 23-27, 2023.

 

Table 1: Electrochemical Distribution

Table 1: Electrochemical Distribution

 

Table 2: Unmyelinated/Myelinated Distribution

Table 2: Unmyelinated/Myelinated Distribution

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