TOOLS: The Desktop Neuron

Science  08 Oct 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5694, pp. 205
DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5694.205b

The simulation tool MetaNeuron lets introductory neuroscience students put a virtual neuron through its paces. The free program from neuroscientist Eric Newman of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, offers five lessons to help users better understand why neurons fire action potentials—and why they don't. Students can start by exploring the ion imbalance in a resting neuron, adjusting potassium and sodium levels, and varying the membrane's permeability to each ion. They can then tweak values such as temperature and ion-channel density to determine the conditions required for an action potential, when ions stream into and out of the neuron.

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