Biological Sciences 330/331, Smith College | Neurophysiology

Tutorial Sites for Learning Neurophysiology


Web sites with tutorials or other pedagogical resources that are useful for this course. The sites were selected by students in the course during the spring of 2002.

Compiled: April 2002

Membranes and channels

Students studying neurophysiology will find these colorful, well-labeled animations helpful. Simulations of particular interest to the class are: channel gating and ion movement during an action potential, propagation of the action potential in an unmyelinated axon vs. a myelinated axon, synaptic transmission, direct and indirect neurotransmitter activities, and center-surround recpetive field.

Submitted by Erin Spaulding

The above-mentioned site is beneficial to lectures in class that include the topics such as ion movement, functional and electrical properties, synaptic transmission, etc. The site includes simulations and calculations that can be manipulated by the user to look at the different responses neuronal cells possess in various conditions. For example, to study passive properties of neurons, the user can manipulate the amount of a current injection, the region on the neuron where the injection occurs, and the duration of the trace to see how these factors individually affect passive conduction in neurons. This would allow for a clearer understanding of the functions of neurons and of the different factors that influence the neuron's abilities. Therefore this site is a tool that can be used to supplement lectures that encompass topics on neuronal function and allows for a more hands-on learning approach that could result in a clearer understanding of the material.

Submitted by Stefanie Keenan

This site is full of links to animations and tutorials. While a portion of the subjects we did not cover, there are plenty that are relevant to the class. Action potential propagation, resting potential, ion channels and neurotransmission are all covered with clear and simple animations while other topics like the Nernst equation have links to tutorials.

Submitted by Kathryn Allen




Synapse Web

My favorite microscopy site. It has lots of 3-d serial section reconstructions, and other morphology information. All of the micrographs are beautiful.

Submitted by Alanna Morris

These sites all provide the same animation of adenyl cyclase converting ATP to cAMP (they tend to be centered around the endocrine system)


Interesting page on role of astrocyte signaling in brain function, with a 3d animation of an individual astrocyte in situ with calcium indicator dye (Oregon Green).

Submitted by Eric Porges


This website is a neuroscience tutorial made for first year medical school students at the Washington University School of Medicine. It provides information on the basic visual pathway, the eye and retina, and the central visual pathway, as well as other topics related to neuroscience. It also has links to other universities and sites in the internet that have diagrams or tutorials dealing with neuroscience. -- Submitted by Lizette Pabon

This website offers a summary of central visual pathways and shows relevant histological sections. The language used is succinct and plain enough to be understood without additional reference materials. Offering well organized schematic representations reinforces the association between functional relationships, making this brief explanation of the visual system particularly helpful. This site is geared to teach clinicians, so the presentation of material seems very logical to me. -- Submitted by Sami Merit

This page is a tutorial of the primary visual pathway. The page is set up in frames so that the anatomy of the brain can be looked at while reading through the tutorial on each of the sections in the pathway. In each of the tutorial's pages there is a general overview, then a special section for more advanced issues. At the end of the tutorial there are two self-tests covering anatomy and the information about the pathway.

This looks like an excellent way to review for exams or to make sure that one is following along in class. Further tutorials about other neurophysiology topics are on: >

Submitted by Gretchen Szabat


Motion perception tutorial

This site has at least a dozen animated tutorials on motion perception. The information is presented in a very accessible manner, with references available for those who are interested in learning more about a particular topic. Quicktime is required. The author also has a tutorial on visual physiology that covers many of the things we've talked about in class. It is available as a link from his homepage (just delete everything in the URL after George_Mather).

Submitted by Shane Heiney.

This web tutorial called "Visual Physiology" is an interactive tutorial that guides you though the visual system. You begin with a bit of history and then progress through the anatomy of the eyes to the general retinal layers and their respective cells. The student then moves through the LGN and learns the projections from the visual fields to the LGN, LGN layers and cell types in the LGN. Then you progress to the Visual Cortex. Architecture, plus simple and complex cells of V1 are discussed as well as the roles of V3, V4 and V5. Finally, there is a 10 question quiz to test your knowledge of the visual processing system.

Submitted by Sharon Cudd Wirant

I found a great site with a variety of links on vision and neuroscience. I looked at quite a few of the links (some of them aren't functional) but the one that I'm recommending is a basic "sensation and perception tutorial." It's pretty simple, but informative. It covers receptive fields well and would have been a great review at the beginning of our vision unit. I'm sure that some of the other links would be quite useful as well.

Go to (for the list of vision links)

and find "sensation and perception tutorial"

or just go to

Submitted by Jill McCullough

I choose this tutorial because I thought it gave a comprehensive overview of the visual system. However, it gives more details than we go over in class. If you are interested in the specifics of the visual system, then this would be a good website to visit.

Submitted by Laura Sibert

I have two websites to recommend that I think would be most useful in the second part of our course because they concern the retina and vision:

I always use the site"Webvision" for information about neuroscience and the retina. There is a lot of accurate information as well as diagrams and pictures. This is a good website for students in our class that haven't taken neuroanatomy because it very clearly illustrates form-function relationships. As well as gross anatomy and physiology of the eye, the site includes information on retinal pathways and vision. There is also a new section on the site called the "psychophysics of vision."

The second site I found is just a fun one for anyone who may be interested in vision experiments. It offers simple ways to demonstrate a few abstract concepts of vision and perception. This page is definitely geared towards younger students in terms of the information though. It includes links to resources such as retina diagrams and visual pathways. There is also a link to an M.C. Escher page that looks at the spatial illusions created in his work.

Submitted by Misha Wagner

This site has a bunch on links to online tutorials and animations. Most are for psychology and research methods, but under the Perception category, there are quite a few interesting sites about the visual system. Most of the sites are very simple, but are a good way to put what we learn in class into context. All the visual illusions may make you a little motion sick after a while, however.

Submitted by Ingrid Hitron

This page has links to some interesting figures. (I especially like the ones on phototransduction.)

Submitted by Kim Porter

This pages contains tutorials and reviews of many of the topics we've covered in the last few weeks of class. They are slightly simplified, but are still useful enough as a review.

Submitted by Alanna Morris

This site has a great video that differentiates well between pathways, receptive fields and cell types in the NS. It could be improved through the addition of sound, but it provides a really good overview of topics we've covered in class.

Submitted by Carolyn Delk

Laboratory simulations

HHMI's virtual lab: Neurophysiology

This tutorial is fun. It walks you through the process of recording from a leech. There is a laboratory notebook, which one can refer to for more details about the procedure or equipment. It reviews the names of the various pieces of equipment (oscilloscope, micromanipulator, and you have to move them with your mouse to perform the dissection. After you successfully separate the nerve cord of the leech then you identify cell types by stimulating the cells with different types of probes (forceps, a feather and a glass probe). Also, you can inject Lucifer Yellow into your specimen and click on a UV screen to see the cells that you dyed. I really liked this tutorial because it requires active participation and it explains what you are doing and why you are doing it. Also, it does not allow you to cheat, you must pin the animal correctly and put the probes in the right place in order to obtain a trace on your oscilloscope. I think it would be very useful as a prelab exercise to familiarize students with the equipment and the procedures. -- Submitted by Katherine Otto

This site provides an interactive tutorial on the dissection of a leech nerve cord. It takes the participant from the preparation of the lab bench (including descriptions of each tool used),to the dissection of the leech and it's nerve cord. It then allows the participant to probe a cell inside the dissected ganglion, and make recordings from it. Different tools are provided to stimulate the neuron, and lucifer yellow is also provided for staining. In the final step the participant is aked to identify the cell from it's appearence and it's firing pattern (An atlas describing each cell type and it's firing pattern is provided). This tutorial is quite engaging and may provide insite into how a neurophysiology experiment would function. It will also educate the participant on the fuctioning of an actual nerve cell. -- Submitted by Kristin Powell

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