Neurons in Action: Computer Simulations with NeuroLab

Producer: Sinauer Associates, Inc.

Neurons in Action is a unique learning tool, a combination of text and interactive simulations of laboratory experiments called NeuroLab. The user carries out interactive simulations of laboratory experiments on digital neurons with the professional research computer simulator called NEURON. NEURON is a neuronal simulator that calculates currents and voltages throughout nerve cells of all types. It runs on the three major platforms (Unix, Mac, Windows) and is available on the internet sites both at Duke and at Yale Universities (see NEURON under Software). The foundation of Neurons in Action is the set of equations developed by Alan Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley (HH) in the 1950s to describe the results of their experiments on the squid’s giant axon. These equations remain the reference standard for describing the behaviour of excitable membranes. Their unparalled accuracy allows computer simulations to predict nerve function under the wide variety of circumstances encompassed by these tutorials. Thus the simulations in Neurons in Action reproduce the results of real experiments with remarkable fidelity. The tutorials give the student the chance to perform experiments beginning with charging a plain lipid bilayer membrane. By changing the neuron’s geometry, channel density, degree of myelination, and ionic environment, the student can experiment with resting and action potentials in an isopotential patch, propagation of action potentials in axons under a variety of conditions, voltage clamping, synaptic potentials, integration of synaptic inputs on dendrites and spike initiation, and action potential invasion of a presynaptic terminal arbour. The ability of NEURON to display a movie of the changing voltage patterns at each point in space throughout a nerve cell provides yet another level of ease in comprehension because it is a natural way to envision what is happening. The morphologies of the nerve cells simulated in these experiments range from a patch of membrane at a uniform potential (such as a cell soma), through axons with uniform properties, to axons with morphological discontinuities such as branches and spines. Unless otherwise indicated, the standard (default) HH parameters have been set up throughout. However, the user will be able to make an almost unlimited number of changes in these parameters. The simulated experiments performed will yield results that are similar to those found in experiments on living preparations.


Year of production: 2000
Medium: CD-ROM
System requirements: Windows 95/98/NT, Macintosh OS 7.0 or better with G3 or PowerPC, Netscape browser (Netscape 4 included on CD)
Price: US$31.95 (single user); for site licence please contact the source