Background: An approach to investigate brain function/dysfunction is to simulate neuron circuits on a computer. A problem, however, is that detailed neuron descriptions are computationally expensive and this handicaps the pursuit of realistic network investigations, where many neurons need to be simulated.
Results: We confront this issue; we employ a novel reduction algorithm to produce a 2 compartment model of the cerebellar Purkinje neuron from a previously published, 1089 compartment model. It runs more than 400 times faster and retains the electrical behavior of the full model. So, it is more suitable for inclusion in large network models, where computational power is a limiting issue. We show the utility of this reduced model by demonstrating that it can replicate the full model's response to alcohol, which can in turn reproduce experimental recordings from Purkinje neurons following alcohol application.
Conclusions: We show that alcohol may modulate Purkinje neuron firing by an inhibition of their sodium-potassium pumps. We suggest that this action, upon cerebellar Purkinje neurons, is how alcohol ingestion can corrupt motor co-ordination. In this way, we relate events on the molecular scale to the level of behavior.