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I have now finished work on a much more advanced version of the insect simulator named AnimatLab. AnimatLab is a software tool that combines biomechanical simulation and biologically realistic neural networks. You can build the body of an animal, robot, or other machine and place it in a virtual 3-D world where the physics of its interaction with the environment are accurate and realistic. You can then design a nervous system that controls the behavior of the body in the environment. The software currently has support for simple firing rate neuron models and leaky integrate and fire spiking neural models. In addition, there a number of different synapse model types that can be used to connect the various neural models to produce your nervous system. On the biomechanics side there is support for a variety of different rigid body types, including custom meshes that can be made to match skeletal structures exactly. The biomechanics system also has hill-based muscle and muscle spindle models. These muscle models allow the nervous system to produce movements around joints. In addition, there are also motorized joints for those interested in controlling robots or other biomimetic machines. This allows the user to generate incredibly complicated artificial lifeforms that are based on real biological systems. Best of all AnimatLab is completely free and it includes free C++ source code!

The page that corresponds to this one on the AnimatLab site is " Equations for a firing rate neuron model"

4.1 Modeling The Neuron

1. A Big First Step.

Before you can even think of having a network of neurons that can control the behavior of the insect, you must be able to simulate the properties of individual neurons. This can be a very challenging exercise because neurons are extremely complex systems. One must ask "So what processes of the neurons behavior are important for this simulation?" And once you figure out which processes need to be modeled, and which are not important enough in the current simulation to spend time on, you must figure out how to simulate those properties. Also, another thing that must be taken into consideration is the fact that there are numerous type of neurons that do a variety of different things. So even once a very basic neuron simulation system has been designed, it is necessary to build a number of variations of that neuron that can perform these other functions. Finally, there are also a number of different ways of connecting neurons together into a network. All of this must be done before even the first step is taken in trying to put together a network of neurons to control behavior.

2. Section Overview

The first topic of this section is a basic overview of how neurons work. This is written so that hopefully even a beginner can easily understand what makes a neuron tick. After that is a break down of how to actually model the behavior of a basic neuron. It discusses the key properties of the neuron, and how to model those processes using an electrical equivalent circuit. After a model has been designed it is then necessary to talk about some of the mathematical tools that will be used to actually implement the model in the computer. Then we put it all together and examine the results from the simulated regular neuron, paying particular attention to what happens as each of the different parameters of the neuron are changed. After we have the basic neuron it is used to build a number of other neurons that perform various functions. Each of these new neuron types are discussed in detail. And finally there is a discussion on the different types of synaptic connections that can be used to connect all of the neurons into a working neural network.

  4.1Modeling The Neuron
   4.1.1Neuron Basics
   4.1.2Neuron Model
   4.1.3Numerical Integration
   4.1.4Regular Neuron
   4.1.5Pacemaker Neuron
   4.1.6Sensory Neuron
   4.1.7Motor Neuron
   4.1.8Random Neuron
   4.1.9Synapses

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