See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  11 Jun 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5421, pp. 1731
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5421.1731d

This vista of hundreds of balls cascading into a rut simulates what's probably happening right now at nerve junctions in your eye muscles as you read these words. The scattered blue balls represent acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that binds to receptors (the purple and yellow cups) and sparks a current that leads to muscle contraction. Researchers are modeling how neurotransmitters diffuse across a synapse in part to better understand neurodegenerative diseases. The computer simulation, by researchers at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, and Cornell University, appears in an image archive at the home page ( of the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure, a consortium of supercomputing researchers. Also check out molecules and brain maps, models of tectonic plates and ocean currents, and a plasma cloud crashing into Earth's magnetosphere.

Navigate This Article