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Neuroscience For Kids

Salty What? Saltatory Conduction

Electrical signals travel faster in axons that are insulated with myelin. Myelin, produced by glial support cells, wraps around axons and helps electrical current flow down the axon (just like wrapping tape around a leaky water hose would help water flow down the hose).

node

Myelin insulation does not cover the entire axon. Rather there are breaks in the wrapping. These breaks are called nodes of Ranvier. The distance between these nodes is between 0.2 and 2 mm. Action potentials traveling down the axon "jump" from node to node. This is called saltatory conduction which means "to leap." Saltatory conduction is a faster way to travel down an axon than traveling in an axon without myelin.

Animated graphic of saltatory conduction.

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