Threshold tracking was used to compare excitability properties (stimulus-response curves, strength-duration properties, recovery cycle and threshold electrotonus) of the median nerve in 11 patients with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) and 25 healthy controls. Stimulus-response curves were significantly different: threshold was much higher, the slope of the curves reduced and the spread of the thresholds greater in the CIDP group. The strength-duration time constant (tau(SD)) was significantly shorter and the rheobase higher in the CIDP group. In the recovery cycle, the CIDP group had less refractoriness, supernormality and late subnormality than healthy controls, but the duration of the relatively refractory period was normal. These changes in tau(SD) and the recovery cycle were not those previously predicted. There were no consistent changes in threshold electrotonus, suggesting that, for the studied axons, there are no consistent changes in accommodation properties that depend on internodal conductances. It is difficult to explain these changes in excitability on the basis of a change in membrane potential, or solely as the result of demyelination, and it is possible that other morphological factors such as variable remyelination and inflammatory oedema affected axonal excitability in the patients.
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