In reading about the purpose of myelin during action potential propagation, I came across a point of confusion.
From what I understand, one of the primary "benefits" of myelin is that it aids in increasing the transverse resistance of an axon...which, biologically, is equivalent to stating that it minimizes the extent to which ions move out of or into the cytoplasm of the axon.
However, I feel as though I have always been taught that "the plasma membrane is impermeable to charged particles" and am therefore confused as to what additional benefit is conferred on the axon by the myelin.
Consider the following two cases:
Case A) The action potential starts at the axon initial segment. The subsequent segment is myelinated. The action potential, through passive diffusion, makes its way down the myelinated section until it reaches the 1st node of ranvier, where the action potential is subsequently regenerated.
Case B) The action potential starts at the axon initial segment. The subsequent segment is unmyelinated but contains no ion channels (or pumps). The action potential, through passive diffusion, makes its way down this unmyelinated section that has no ion channels (the same distance as in Case A) until it reaches a dense collection of voltage gated sodium channels.
In case B, will the action potential be regenerated? Or has the passive diffusion event suffered from too much "leakage"? If so, is it really true that:
(the plasma membrane + myelin) transverse resistance >> (the plasma membrane) transverse resistance alone