Before I type my question it is important to know that I already tried looking this up on my own and could not find an answer because the answers are all in complicated physics terms and this topic is only half a page in a chapter on Action potential in my 1st year physiology textbook.
This apparatus is used in the following way: The investigator decides which voltage to establish inside the nerve fiber. The electronic portion of the apparatus is then adjusted to the desired voltage, automatically injecting either positive or negative electricity through the current electrode at whatever rate is required to hold the voltage, as measured by the voltage electrode, at the level set by the operator. When the membrane potential is suddenly increased by this voltage clamp from −90 millivolts to zero, the voltage-gated sodium and potassium channels open and sodium and potassium ions begin to pour through the channels.
1: Does that mean that the change in membrane potential that I did resulted in changes in the conformational states of ion channels which in turn changed the membrane potential that I need to control ?
To counterbalance the effect of these ion movements on the desired setting of the intracellular voltage, electrical current is injected automatically through the current electrode of the voltage clamp to maintain the intracellular voltage at the required steady zero level.
2:Is this all still the step of setting the membrane potential to a certain specific value ?
To achieve this level, the current injected must be equal to but of opposite polarity to the net current flow through the membrane channels.
3: I'm not sure I understand this.
Finally, the investigator adjusts the concentrations of the ions to other than normal levels both inside and outside the nerve fiber and repeats the study. When sodium is the only permeant ion in the solutions inside and outside the squid axon, the voltage clamp measures current flow only through the sodium channels. When potassium is the only permeant ion, current flow only through the potassium channels is measured.
4: do they make sure that the flow is only from sodium channels by setting the membrane potential to the equilibrium potential of other ions or a potential between the equilibrium potential of the other ions (so greater than it) and the equilibrium potential of Na (and also less than it )?