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Fundamentals of Neuroscience, Part 1: The Electrical Properties of the Neuron

Harvard University via edX


Fundamentals of Neuroscience is a three-courseseries that explores the structure and function of the nervous system—from the inner workings of a single nerve cell to the staggering complexity of the brain and the social interactions they enable.

In this first course, you'll learn how individual neurons use electricity to transmit information. You'll build a neuron, piece by piece, using interactive simulations, then travel around Harvard's campus, where you'll see the inner workings of a lab and learn how to conduct DIY neuroscience experiments on your own.

Join us as we study the electrical properties in individual neurons, building a foundation for understanding the function of the entire nervous system.


Lesson1: The Resting Potential
The nervous system functions by sending electrical signals between neurons. To begin our study of the nervous system, we will focus on a single neuron 'at rest,' which has an electrical potential across its membrane. We will understand the ionic basis underlying this electrical potential, and how to calculate it ourselves.

Lesson 2: Passive Membrane Properties
Electrical signals between neurons can be sent through changes in their membrane potentials. In order to more deeply understand these electrical signals, we will first study the electrical properties of the neuron itself. We will examine the resistive and capacitive properties of the neuron, how these properties arise from biological factors, and how these properties influence how a neuron responds to electrical signals.

Lesson3: Action Potentials
In this lesson we will investigate one of the fundamental ways that neurons send electrical signals, through an all-or-nothing process called the action potential. The action potential is generated by the precise opening and closing of voltage-gated channels that cause specific changes to the neuron's membrane potential. We'll develop an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms of these channels and the ionic currents behind the action potential.

Lesson 4: Action Potential Propagation
Neurons send electrical signals through action potentials moving down their axons. In order to further develop our understanding of the way neurons generate and send electrical signals, we will integrate our knowledge of the electrical properties of the neuron and the action potential itself. This will allos us to understand how the nervous system has solved the problem of fast and reliable communication.

Lesson 5: DIY Labs
Seeing or measuring something with your own hands is often the best way to learn! We've spent a lot of time discussing the electrical properties of neurons, and along the way you've seen many different demonstrations. You can perform some of these experiments, as well as others we haven't shown yet, yourself, using an inexpensive piece of equipment known as a SpikerBox.

Taught by

David Cox


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4.6 rating, based on 14 reviews

Start your review of Fundamentals of Neuroscience, Part 1: The Electrical Properties of the Neuron

  • Profile image for Daniel Reid
    Daniel Reid

    Daniel Reid completed this course, spending 8 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be hard.

    I started this course with no prior knowledge in physics, biochemistry or bioelectricity, so the mathematics in this course was difficult to comprehend. But maths aside, this course was very informative, i have learnt so much in this course in the functions of a neuron, and it refreshed my knowledge of science. This course will greatly help me with my passion in mental health and understanding the workings of the brain when affected by substances and damage. I will continue this course right through part 2 and part 3.
  • Bob

    Bob completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    Material & topic seemed interesting. Kind of silly way of presenting it, in my opinion, but quality of the videos was frankly good. Instructor tried to be funny too hard. I dropped; too much posh design & annoying music as background distraction for me in a neuroscience course. I know some other peers were thirlled by the course. Not me; I guess is one of those you have to try by yourself to see where you stand.
  • Profile image for Juan Leopoldo Balsevich
    Juan Leopoldo Balsevich

    Juan Leopoldo Balsevich completed this course.

    Great course! I found the learning strategies very good. Including a bit of cartoon characters and good sense of humour to help digesting arid maths and biochemistry. Great videos! Plenty of them. Museum and Lab tours. Brain operations. Just loved the...
  • Mustapha Abbad completed this course.

    I want to understand thé mechanisme of humain cells because i'm verry patient for neurosciences and because of that i'm here
  • Anonymous
    This course was fun, interesting, and personally I found few parts that were challenging. I completed this course in 16 days exam included. Now I'm taking neuroscience part 2.
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