Overview

Designed by the Biological Science Division at the University of Chicago, the Nerve is an online simulation created to help students better understand how action potentials function. The simulation uses the squid giant axon as an experimental system in which to explore and explain the Hodgkin-Huxley model of action potential initiation and propagation. Students can change various axon properties and experimental parameters in the simulation to see how these changes affect axon potentials.

In this particular activity created by Dr. Joseph Dent from McGill University, students are given a list of simulations to try that have predetermined parameters. Student are ...

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Designed by the Biological Science Division at the University of Chicago, the Nerve is an online simulation created to help students better understand how action potentials function. The simulation uses the squid giant axon as an experimental system in which to explore and explain the Hodgkin-Huxley model of action potential initiation and propagation. Students can change various axon properties and experimental parameters in the simulation to see how these changes affect axon potentials.

In this particular activity created by Dr. Joseph Dent from McGill University, students are given a list of simulations to try that have predetermined parameters. Student are asked to record changes that they observe in action potential initiation or propagation. Following each simulation, there are questions that prompt students to relate what they learn from the simulation with the key concepts presented in the course lectures.

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Objectives

This activity is designed to reinforce student understanding of the key concepts of action potential function (initiation and propagation) as presented in lecture.

Context and requirements

Level U1-U3
Discipline Biology
Activity Content Nerve stimulation and action potentials
Technological Requirements Computer and simulation link
Best Use Practice

Author’s Notes

Benefits

Sometimes theories or concepts presented in lecture can be abstract and difficult for students to grasp. Using a simulation to visually demonstrate a particular concept presents the material in a different way that can be easier for students to understand.

Challenges

Motivation: students are more willing to complete the exercise if it is assigned as grade-credit rather than as homework.

Resources: the software available isn’t necessarily designed to address specific learning goals. On the other hand, creating custom software is resource and time-intensive.

Tips

Exercises are best graded as pass-fail: passing does not necessarily mean students achieved a correct answer. Students pass if they demonstrate engagement in the activity and show that they have put in effort to answer the presented problem.

Activity Pedagogical Components

Data Collection

Students INDIVIDUALLY perform the different simulations outlined in the pdf, noting any changes in action potential initiation or propagation as a result of changing the simulation parameters.

Problem Solving

Students answer the questions in their pdf related to each simulation. These questions are answered INDIVIDUALLY and are intended to get students to identify what specific components of the action potential system are most important for nerve stimulation.

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