The thermodynamic theory of action potential propagation: A sound basis for unification of the physics of nerve impulses

Benjamin Drukarch, Micha M.M. Wilhelmus, Shamit Shrivastava

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The thermodynamic theory of action potential propagation challenges the conventional understanding of the nerve signal as an exclusively electrical phenomenon. Often misunderstood as to its basic tenets and predictions, the thermodynamic theory is virtually ignored in mainstream neuroscience. Addressing a broad audience of neuroscientists, we here attempt to stimulate interest in the theory. We do this by providing a concise overview of its background, discussion of its intimate connection to Albert Einstein's treatment of the thermodynamics of interfaces and outlining its potential contribution to the building of a physical brain theory firmly grounded in first principles and the biophysical reality of individual nerve cells. As such, the paper does not attempt to advocate the superiority of the thermodynamic theory over any other approach to model the nerve impulse, but is meant as an open invitation to the neuroscience community to experimentally test the assumptions and predictions of the theory on their validity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalReviews in the Neurosciences
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • acoustic waves
  • action potential
  • brain
  • neuronal communication
  • thermodynamics

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