About Neurons in Action


Neurons in Action (NIA) is a set of interactive tutorials on CD-ROM that are based on the professional simulator NEURON. It is unique in presenting neuronal activity as moving graphed voltages – "movies" of impulses traveling in space. It is also unique in its approach of leading the student through a series of laboratory experiments where he or she can change parameters and plot the results. Finally, not only can the student plot the voltage, but, more importantly, they can plot the underlying ionic currents and conductances, leading to a true understanding of how signals are generated.

The NIA tutorials are hyperlinked to a wealth of supporting information:
  • answers to questions arising in the tutorials,
  • an extensive history of the experiments elucidating the mechanism of the action potential,
  • basic neurophysiological concepts and equations,
  • an interactive equivalent circuit,
  • and PDFs of classic papers.
A set of 19 minimovies on the CD, illustrating points that most neuroscientists cover in basic lectures, can easily be imported into PowerPoint or Keynote presentations.


The purpose of this set of tutorials is to make the subject of neurophysiology accessible and engaging to students. With the subject of neuroscience expanding in so many directions, it seems essential that the neurobiologist have a grasp of the fundamental principles of neuronal function and an appreciation of how the field can be aided by computational tools. As well, we hope that these tutorials engage those students who might be apprehensive about concepts such as conductance and capacitance, allowing them to see how these concepts relate to their general understanding of biology and physiology.

Computer simulations of nerve cell activity, under the user's control, furnish insight into nerve function that is simply not possible with conventional static figures. NIA's moving graphs of the changing voltage patterns at each point in space throughout a nerve cell lead, in our experience, to the "Aha!" moment in learning this subject.

The tutorials are designed as a sequence, but may be used selectively in teaching undergraduate, graduate, or medical students.