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Understanding Action Potentials in Neural Networks

Learn about the biophysics of action potentials and how they enable neural communications in this free online course.

Publisher: NPTEL
The human brain is the most complex computational network known in the universe. Scientists are now barely beginning to understand how these networks are formed and function. In neurophysiology, the action potential is perhaps the most studied phenomenon. This course on action potentials will introduce you to the biomechanics of this naturally occurring event to help you understand how neuronal networks transfer information. Start learning today!
Understanding Action Potentials in Neural Networks
  • Duration

    3-4 Hours
  • Students

  • Accreditation






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It is estimated that there are more neurons in the human brain than stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. What’s so fascinating is that all of them are connected in complex neuronal networks, making the human brain the most extensive, most complex computational network in the universe. In fact, scientists know more about the universe than the human brain. Neurophysiology aims to understand this enthralling organ’s working complexities, and perhaps the most studied phenomenon that occurs in the human brain is the action potential. Knowing how action potentials work is crucial in deciphering how neurons communicate with one another. By understanding how these networks and circuits in the human brain function, scientists find connections between brain dysfunction and physical, mental, and even emotional illness. This exciting online course is designed to give you the latest up-to-date information regarding the biomechanics of the human brain’s action potential.

You will start this course by learning about the neuron’s cell membrane’s electrical and chemical properties. Discover how positively charged sodium and potassium ion channels in the cell membrane create a different electrical charge between the inside and the outside of a neuron cell. This electrical charge difference creates what neurophysiologists call the resting membrane potential. Study how an electrical circuit can represent this neuronal membrane, and the potential across such a membrane can be expressed using the constant field equation. Get acquainted with the use of voltage clamps in experimental analysis with the cell membrane. Study how Alan Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley found out how action potentials are generated in the squid giant axon and how their discoveries taught scientists how to activate and deactivate ion channels in the cell membrane. You will then learn about axons and dendrites’ function to understand how the electrical activity created by an action potential spreads to other neurons.

After you learn about axons and dendrites, the cable theory will be explained. The cable theory is used to develop computational compartmental models that provide researchers with a theoretical basis for dendritic function. Combined with mathematical models for the generation of synaptic potentials and action potentials, these computational models can provide a complete theoretical description of neuronal activity. You will become familiar with computer software available for free that will allow you to create your own model. Towards the end of the course, you will study the instruments used in laboratory testing of action potentials. Acquire the skills to perform an electroencephalogram (EEG), and use bioamplifiers and filters to record and interpret brain activity. Study cleanroom classifications, protocols and safety to learn how to use a cleanroom yourself. Would you like to know how to perform EGGs and how to interpret and record action potentials? Are you fascinated with the way the human brain works? Then this course is for you! Register today and enjoy learning about action potentials in neural networks. 



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