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Peer Review

Physiological Events at the Neural Synapse



Overall Numeric Rating:

3.75 stars
Content Quality: 3.75 stars
Effectiveness: 3.75 stars
Ease of Use: 4 stars
Reviewed: Oct 20, 2013 by Biology Editorial Board
Overview: “Physiological Events at the Neural Synapse” is a short animated presentation of the events that occur at a synapse. It begins with the nerve impulse and follows the steps to the release and binding of neurotransmitters to the postsynaptic membrane. The student will gain an understanding of the synaptic knob, release of neurotransmitters, and excitatory and inhibitory responses. This tutorial utilizes simple simulations in a slide-show format geared towards high school or first year undergraduate students early in their study of human biology and the nervous system.
Type of Material: Tutorial/Presentation
Recommended Uses: This presentation could be used during a lecture to demonstrate the steps that occur at a neural synapse. The presentation could also be used for individual study or incorporated into a homework assignment to preview or review of the steps of the synapse.
Technical Requirements: This site was tested using Internet Explorer 9, Firefox, and Safari. Adobe Flash is required, but note that the Apple iPod, iPad, and iPhone will not play Flash content.
Identify Major Learning Goals: Upon completing this tutorial the student should understand how neurotransmitters are released from a synaptic knob and removed from the synaptic cleft. They will also gain an appreciation of excitatory and inhibitory responses that might be generated.
Target Student Population: This would be appropriate for high school, undergraduate human biology students, or entry level graduate students.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: The student needs to know the basic chemical make-up of a plasma membrane, the general concept of a synapse, and what depolarization and hyper-polarization means.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 3.75 stars
  • The presentation is very clear and concise. The steps are described sequentially and it is easy for the user to follow and understand.
  • Covers the main concepts of synaptic integration
  • The physiological events that occur at a synapse is a foundational concept in physiology, neuroscience/neuroanatomy, and in some pharmacology classes.
  • The presentation is accurate and it summarizes the steps well.
  • The presentation is self-contained and can stand alone.
  • Over simplifies the mechanisms for excitatory and inhibitory responses
  • The use of the term “action potential” instead of “nerve impulse” would have been more accurate.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 3.75 stars
  • The presentation did provide objectives for the user.
  • Chronological presentation of the steps
  • Users will be able to quickly understand the events at the synapse.
  • The presentation allows the user to proceed forward and backward at their own pace.
  • The presentation does appeal to multiple learning styles through its use of images, animation and text.
  • Simple knowledge-based questions could be written to enhance student learning
  • Lack of detail restricts learning.
  • There are no questions throughout the presentation to stimulate thought or provide self-assessment.
  • The presentation is interactive in that the user can control the pace, but it stops there.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4 stars
  • The presentation is easy to use and navigate.
  • Pages are number as “Page X of Y”
  • Can increase or decrease the size of viewing window
  • The presentation is self-contained.
  • A descriptive slide about the parts of a neuron could be helpful in the beginning to orientate the user to some of the terminology about nerves.
  • Can progress forward or backwards only one slide at a time.
  • The animations are older and are not as high quality as newer products.