The brain is an amazing information processing system that allows organisms to adaptively monitor and control complex dynamic interactions with their environment across multiple spatial and temporal scales. Mathematical modeling and computer simulation techniques have become essential tools in understanding diverse aspects of neural processing ranging from sub-millisecond temporal coding in the sound localization circuity of barn owls to long-term memory storage and retrieval in humans that can span decades. The processing capabilities of individual neurons lie at the core of these models, with the emphasis shifting upward and downward across different levels of biological organization depending on the nature of the questions being addressed. This review provides an introduction to the techniques for constructing biophysically based models of individual neurons and local networks. Topics include Hodgkin-Huxley-type models of macroscopic membrane currents, Markov models of individual ion-channel currents, compartmental models of neuronal morphology, and network models involving synaptic interactions among multiple neurons. WIREs Syst Biol Med 2011 3 74–92 DOI: 10.1002/wsbm.95

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