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What is Neurosim?

Neurosim simulates neural activity at the cellular and small systems level. It works “off-the-shelf” and requires no programming or specialist computer know-how. Its specific purpose is to help tutors to teach, and students to understand, cellular neurophysiology. It is aimed at the undergraduate and graduate student level, but it may also provide entertainment, and perhaps some useful insights, for experienced neurophysiologists.

Neurosim is a desktop program that runs under Windows 10. System administrators can also deliver it by streaming using programs like AppsAnywhere.

Key Features

What's New in Version 5?: List of key changes from version 4.

Value to Students

The key design aim is usability. Most students can dive straight in and concentrate on the science, rather than struggling with managing the program itself. Neurosim has been used for many years by students in the author’s own classes, and a lot of teaching experience has gone into making the program as student-friendly and accessible as possible.

The key pedagogic aim is to increase active learning. Neurosim shares many of the benefits of real laboratory experiments, but as a simulation tool it also enables students to see "under the hood" and investigate the underlying mechanisms of the experiments they are running. By encouraging students to ask "what if" questions, it can reinforce and consolidate understanding of many of the key principles and concepts that underlie cellular electrophysiology. It is an excellent tool for independent learning after core principles have been established by standard classroom and text book methods.

Value to Tutors

Neurosim can be a major supplement to, and partial replacement of, real laboratory experiments. It enables students to perform experiments that would be far beyond the capabilities of a normal teaching laboratory, at nominal cost and with zero animal use. As well as helping students understand fundamental principles, this can give valuable practice in designing experiments, and interpreting and analysing realistic neurophysiological data. Tutors can also generate data for use in group discussions or problem-solving exercises, in situations where student access to computers is restricted. Neurosim can be used as a visual aid during classroom teaching, to present dynamical events that cannot be adequately illustrated with conventional techniques.

Neurosim has a highly configurable user interface, so tutors can set up experiments that only expose students to details relevant to a particular learning objective. Tutors can also hide and password-protect specific parameters, so students can be set the challenge of discovering them by experiment.

 

Neurosim Modules: A brief description of the 6 modules contained in Neurosim.

Suggested Use: Some ideas about how Neurosim can be used.

Gallery: Screenshots of Neurosim in action.

Documents

Common 'How To' Tasks: How to accomplish some common tasks when using Neurosim.

Walk-through: Step-by-step guides for setting up simulations in Neurosim.

Classroom activity: A ready-to-use set of 3 virtual laboratory activities, covering action potentials, synapses and neural oscillators. Total time approximately 4 hours (recommended as two 2-hour sessions).

Tutorial Exercises and Demonstrations: A more extensive set of programmed activities covering :

What's New?: List of changes with each version.

About the Author

Dr Bill Heitler recently retired from a full-time academic position at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, and is now an honorary Reader in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at that university. He has many years of teaching experience, and has researched and published extensively in invertebrate simple-systems and cellular neuroscience.

This work has benefited enormously from the experience the author gained at the University of St Andrews. However, the university is not responsible in any way for the contents of the program or the documentation that accompanies it.

Contact the author.

Other resources by the author.

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