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published by the PhET
Available Languages: English, Spanish
This mobile-friendly simulation will let your students explore what happens when an electrical impulse stimulates a neuron. Observe the ions as they move across the neuron membrane via gated channels and click "Charges" to see the charge distribution change from resting potential to action potential. Can be viewed in fast, normal, or slow motion.
Editor's Note: This PhET simulations meets multiple NGSS standards that cross the disciplines of physics and biology.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Electricity & Magnetism
- Electrostatics
= Charge
- Resistance
= Conduction in Solutions
Other Sciences
- Life Sciences
- Middle School
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Interactive Simulation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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Intended Users:
General Public
Access Rights:
Free access and
Free access with registration
Simulation is freely accessible; access to lesson plans and Teaching Tips is available to registered users only. Registration is free.
This material is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.
Rights Holder:
Physics Education Technology Project,
action potential, axon, biology, brain cells, membrane channel, nerve cells
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created September 2, 2021 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
September 3, 2021 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
January 31, 2014

Next Generation Science Standards

From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes (MS-LS1)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (6-8)
  • Develop and use a model to describe the function of a cell as a whole and ways parts of cells contribute to the function. (MS-LS1-2)
  • Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories. (MS-LS1-8)

From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes (HS-LS1)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
  • Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms. (HS-LS1-2)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Chemical Reactions (PS1.B)
  • In many situations, a dynamic and condition-dependent balance between a reaction and the reverse reaction determines the numbers of all types of molecules present. (9-12)
Definitions of Energy (PS3.A)
  • A system of objects may also contain stored (potential) energy, depending on their relative positions. (6-8)
  • …and "electrical energy" may mean energy stored in a battery or energy transmitted by electric currents. (9-12)
Structure and Function (LS1.A)
  • Within cells, special structures are responsible for particular functions, and the cell membrane forms the boundary that controls what enters and leaves the cell. (6-8)
  • Systems of specialized cells within organisms help them perform the essential functions of life. (9-12)
Information Processing (LS1.D)
  • Each sense receptor responds to different inputs (electromagnetic, mechanical, chemical), transmitting them as signals that travel along nerve cells to the brain. The signals are then processed in the brain, resulting in immediate behaviors or memories. (6-8)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Cause and Effect (K-12)
  • Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural systems. (6-8)
  • Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system. (9-12)
Systems and System Models (K-12)
  • Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy and matter flows within systems. (6-8)
  • When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models. (9-12)
  • Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales. (9-12)
Energy and Matter (2-12)
  • The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a natural system. (6-8)
Structure and Function (K-12)
  • Complex and microscopic structures and systems can be visualized, modeled, and used to describe how their function depends on the shapes, composition, and relationships among its parts, therefore complex natural structures/systems can be analyzed to determine how they function. (6-8)
  • The functions and properties of natural and designed objects and systems can be inferred from their overall structure, the way their components are shaped and used, and the molecular substructures of its various materials. (9-12)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Developing and Using Models (K-12)
  • Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to developing, using and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems. (6-8)
    • Develop a model to describe unobservable mechanisms. (6-8)
  • Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds. (9-12)
    • Use a model based on evidence to illustrate the relationships between systems or between components of a system. (9-12)
    • Use a model to provide mechanistic accounts of phenomena. (9-12)
ComPADRE is beta testing Citation Styles!

Record Link
AIP Format
Computer Program PHET: NEURON SIMULATION (PhET, Boulder, 2014), WWW Document, (https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulations/neuron).
Computer Program PHET: NEURON SIMULATION (PhET, Boulder, 2014), <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulations/neuron>.
APA Format
PhET: Neuron Simulation [Computer software]. (2014). Boulder: PhET. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulations/neuron
Chicago Format
"PhET: Neuron Simulation." PhET, Boulder. https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulations/neuron (accessed 16 September 2021).
MLA Format
PhET: Neuron Simulation. Computer software. PhET, 2014. 16 Sep. 2021 <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulations/neuron>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PhET: Neuron Simulation}, Publisher = {PhET}, Month = {January}, Year = {2014} }
Refer Export Format

%T PhET: Neuron Simulation %D January 31, 2014 %I PhET %C Boulder %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulations/neuron %O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Computer Program %D January 31, 2014 %T PhET: Neuron Simulation %C Boulder %I PhET %8 January 31, 2014 %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulations/neuron

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Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

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