Teaching bioelectricity and neurophysiology to medical students using LabAXON simulations

Olivia Monteiro, Anand Bhaskar, Io Nam Wong, Anna K. M. Ng, Daniel T. Baptista-Hon (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Patch-clamp electrophysiological recordings of neuronal activity require a large amount of space and equipment. The technique is difficult to master and not conducive to demonstration to more than a few medical students. Therefore, neurophysiological education is mostly limited to classroom-based pedagogies such as lectures. However, the demonstration of concepts such as changes in membrane potential and ion channel activity is best achieved with hands-on approaches. This article details an in silico activity suitable for large groups of medical students that demonstrates the key concepts in neurophysiology using the LabAXON simulation software. Learning activities in our practical include 1) measurements of voltage and time parameters of the neuronal action potential and its relationship to the Nernst potentials of Na+ and K+; 2) determination of the stimulus threshold to evoke action potentials; 3) demonstration of the refractory period of an action potential; and 4) voltage-clamp experiments to determine the current-voltage relationship of voltage-gated Na+ and K+ channels and the voltage dependence of, and recovery from, inactivation of voltage-gated Na+ channels. We emphasized the accuracy of quantitative measurements as well as the correct use of units. The level of difficulty of the activity can be altered through different multiple choice questions relating to material introduced in the associated lectures. This practical activity is suitable for different class sizes and is adaptable for delivery with online platforms. Student feedback showed that the students felt the activity helped them consolidate their understanding of the lecture material.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)702-708
Number of pages7
JournalAdvances in Physiology Education
Volume45
Issue number4
Early online date9 Sep 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • Action Potentials
  • Humans
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Neurophysiology
  • Sodium
  • Students, Medical

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