The exponential increase in available neural data has combined with the exponential growth in computing ("Moore's law") to create new opportunities to understand neural systems at large scale and high detail. The ability to produce large and sophisticated simulations has introduced unique challenges to neuroscientists. Computational models in neuroscience are increasingly broad efforts, often involving the collaboration of experts in different domains. Furthermore, the size and detail of models have grown to levels for which understanding the implications of variability and assumptions is no longer trivial. Here, we introduce the model design platform N2A which aims to facilitate the design and validation of biologically realistic models. N2A uses a hierarchical representation of neural information to enable the integration of models from different users. N2A streamlines computational validation of a model by natively implementing standard tools in sensitivity analysis and uncertainty quantification. The part-relationship representation allows both network-level analysis and dynamical simulations. We will demonstrate how N2A can be used in a range of examples, including a simple Hodgkin-Huxley cable model, basic parameter sensitivity of an 80/20 network, and the expression of the structural plasticity of a growing dendrite and stem cell proliferation and differentiation.
Keywords: biologically realistic modeling; computational modeling; computational neuroscience; neuroinformatics; structural plasticity.