Realistic computer simulations

Computer simulations provide the means to determine whether what we know at one level, for instance of the properties of individual neurones and their interconnections, are necessary and sufficient to explain the emergent properties at the next level, here of circuits of a few thousand neurones. The most useful models for this purpose are tightly constrained by experimental data, and ideally are used to make experimentally testable predictions. Mostly they consist of several 'compartments' to represent the anatomy of the neurone's dendrites and soma. Each compartment consists of several differential equations representing specific ion channels which may be gated by membrane potential, extracellular neurotransmitters, or intracellular calcium. Large numbers of neurones can then be wired together in larger-scale simulations, using biologically realistic anatomical connectivity and synaptic properties. (i5)

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