Computational exploration of neuron and neural network models in neurobiology

Methods Mol Biol. 2007;401:167-79. doi: 10.1007/978-1-59745-520-6_10.


The electrical activity of individual neurons and neuronal networks is shaped by the complex interplay of a large number of non-linear processes, including the voltage-dependent gating of ion channels and the activation of synaptic receptors. These complex dynamics make it difficult to understand how individual neuron or network parameters-such as the number of ion channels of a given type in a neuron's membrane or the strength of a particular synapse-influence neural system function. Systematic exploration of cellular or network model parameter spaces by computational brute force can overcome this difficulty and generate comprehensive data sets that contain information about neuron or network behavior for many different combinations of parameters. Searching such data sets for parameter combinations that produce functional neuron or network output provides insights into how narrowly different neural system parameters have to be tuned to produce a desired behavior. This chapter describes the construction and analysis of databases of neuron or neuronal network models and describes some of the advantages and downsides of such exploration methods.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computing Methodologies*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Neurobiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*