The simulation system NEURON is a common research tool for constructing structurally and functionally realistic models of neuronal systems. NEURON allows the development of simulations at any level of complexity, from subcellular components to single cells, cellular networks, and system-level models. Focusing on an in vitro cell model of a single, acutely isolated thalamic neuron, we used the simulation environment to address and to discuss the following questions in an undergraduate course: (i) Which parts are required to design a single compartment with passive electrical properties? (ii) Which components are necessary to model a single action potential or a train of action potentials? (iii) What can we learn from voltage-clamp and current-clamp experiments? (iv) What kind of cellular parameters are accessible from the modeling data? (v) What are the differences between single-compartment models and multi-compartment models? (vi) What are the advantages and disadvantages of artificial cell models? (vii) Can realistic modeling open up new strategies to discover the way that neurons process information?
Keywords: NEURON; cellular parameters; computational models; current-clamp; ion channels; neurons; simulation; voltage-clamp.