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All or Nothing

A Case Study in Muscle Contraction

Co Authors:

Ryan T. Neumann
Kinesiology & Sports Management
Texas Tech University

Collin J. Quinn
Kinesiology & Sports Management
Texas Tech University

Brittany A. Whitaker
Pre-Professional Health
Texas Tech University

Sean T. Woyton
Kinesiology & Sports Management
Texas Tech University

Breanna N. Harris
Biological Sciences
Texas Tech University


In this interrupted case study, students pose as an intern of a neuromuscular/skeletal specialist and discover how sarin and myasthenia gravis influence muscle function. Students are given background information about the patients and their situations, as well as results from blood tests. Students are asked incremental questions that build on each other with the end goal of students describing the process of muscle contraction, from motor neuron to sarcomere shortening, and learning what happens when parts of that process are disrupted. This activity was developed for use in a physiology course where the majority of the students were pre-medical, pre-nursing, or other allied health majors.

  • Explain the relationship that exists between nicotinic acetylcholine receptors along the post synaptic cleft/motor end plate and acetylcholine.
  • Explain the calcium ion flow into and out of the sarcoplasmic reticulum.
  • Identify the role of calcium in muscle contraction and describe its relationship with myosin and actin.
  • Compare and contrast the effects of having too little or too much acetylcholine and acetylcholine esterase in the synaptic cleft.
Keywords: muscle; sarin; sarcomere; contraction; NMJ; excitation-contraction; myasthenia gravis; neuromuscular junction; sliding-filament theory
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Medicine (General)   Nursing   Physiology   Sports Science   Toxicology  
Date Posted: 9/29/2016
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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Used this case study in Adv. Anatomy & Physiology course as a review of muscle physiology and the NMJ. It was wonderful! Straightforward and a nice real-world application to engage the students. Thanks a lot.

Andrea Cull
Fort Gibson High School
Fort Gibson

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