What does "Notes of Ranvier" mean?

Hi!  Welcome to Notes of Ranvier.  I started this blog because possibly the only thing I love more than science is talking about science.  I love to try and make things that might seem complicated or otherwise mundane in science interesting and exciting to people.  So if you would describe yourself as even a little bit curious, then this blog is for you.

Confused by the title, "Notes of Ranvier?"  Thought this was a music blog?  Well then here's a quick lesson in neuroscience that will hopefully make the title make more sense to you.  First of all, Notes of Ranvier is a play on the phrase, Nodes of Ranvier.  On a side-note, the title "Nodes of Ranvier" was (perhaps ironically) already taken on blogspot by a Christian metal/metalcore band from Sioux Falls.  But anyway, Nodes of Ranvier are spaces between the fatty insulating sheaths (called myelin sheaths) around the axon of a neuron.

Still confused?  A photo might help.
Here's a diagram of a typical neuron:
When one neuron sends a signal down its efferent (exiting) projection, the axon, that signal is called an "action potential."  The action potential is a sudden, rapid change in the voltage across the cell's membrane that travels down the axon and causes the release of chemicals into the synapse (labeled above), which carry the signal to the other neuron.  However, in many cases the axons are wrapped in fatty, Myelin sheaths that insulate the axon and therefore prevent the flow of electricity.  The gaps between these sheaths, known as the Nodes of Ranvier, are small areas on the axon where electricity can be conducted.  So the action potential "jumps" from one node to the next until it gets to the axon terminal, and this is known as "saltatory conduction."  Because of this, action potentials can travel over long distances (say, from your spinal cord to your hamstring) rapidly and efficiently.

So those nodes are what allows you to think and react so quickly to stimuli.  They generally come in handy in case you're suddenly face-to-face with a lion or a bear, or maybe your ex, and need to make a quick getaway.

That was my really quick-and-dirty explanation of cell signaling, but someday in the future I plan on writing a longer post on it explaining what an amazing thing the nervous system really is.

I also accept suggestions for things to write about!  For the most part, my interests lie in biology, neuroscience, psychology, medicine, and well, you get the idea.  But I'm open to any and all suggestions.  If you have some burning question about science, or the history of science, let me know!  I'd love to answer it if I can.