John Bickle at MSU Weekly Online Chats

We’re happy to announce our first co-hosted talk! This week we are bringing you John Bickle from the MSU Weekly Chat series, a great lineup of talks put together by John and Antonella Tramacere. You can participate in the live talk and Q&A and/or find the talk on the Brains Blog YouTube channel afterward! Details below.




FALL 2020

Organized and hosted by Antonella Tramacere and John Bickle

“On some limits of computational modeling in mechanistic neurobiology: An illuminating historical case”

JOHN BICKLE, Ph.D. (Mississippi State University/University of Mississippi Medical Center)

Thursday, November 12, 1:30pm US Central Standard Time (CST)

Format: Cisco Webex meeting.
Contact Antonella (a.tramacere[at] or John (jbickle[at] for login instructions.


Increasingly neuroscientists use computer modeling, including in the search for neurobiological mechanisms. It is interesting to look back on the historical case of Alan Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley, whose quantitative model of the action potential is now widely regarded as foundational for the field of computational neuroscience. Both were awarded one-third share of the 1963 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries; both thought initially that their quantitative model would prove invaluable in the search for the “molecular mechanisms” of the action potential. But by the time they published their quantitative model in their 1952 paper, “A quantitative description of membrane current and its application to conduction and excitation in nerve,” (Journal of Physiology 17(4): 500-544), both had already realized serious limitations of their model for that specific scientific endeavor. Explicating their account of these limits offers a useful lesson for contemporary computational neuroscientists. Even in our times of quantitative models and computer hardware that would have flabbergasted Hodgkin and Huxley, wetlab interventionist experimentation must remain the principal activity in the search for neurobiological mechanisms, for the same reasons Hodgkin and Huxley realized nearly 70 years ago.

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