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See Inside October/November 2006

The Electrical Brain

Most nerve cells use messenger chemicals to communicate. Now science is learning more about the brain's rarer, lightning-fast electrical signaling

Too hot! As our fingertips graze the hot stove, their thermal receptors sound an alarm. The message races at 300 kilometers an hour through the nervous system to the brain, where it gets immediate attention. The muscles receive an order to pull those fingers away from the surface.

Such messages--encoded as electrical impulses--constantly stream through our nervous system. They not only prevent us from burning our fingers on the hot stove but also enable our very survival.

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