20 Years of Computational Neuroscience

Volume 9 of the series Springer Series in Computational Neuroscience pp 33-71


History of Neural Simulation Software

  • David BeemanAffiliated withDepartment of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder Email author 


This chapter provides a brief history of the development of software for simulating biologically realistic neurons and their networks, beginning with the pioneering work of Hodgkin and Huxley and others who developed the computational models and tools that are used today. I also present a personal and subjective view of some of the issues that came up during the development of GENESIS, NEURON, and other general platforms for neural simulation. This is with the hope that developers and users of the next generation of simulators can learn from some of the good and bad design elements of the last generation. New simulator architectures such as GENESIS 3 allow the use of standard well-supported external modules or specialized tools for neural modeling that are implemented independently from the means of the running the model simulation. This allows not only sharing of models but also sharing of research tools. Other promising recent developments during the past few years include standard simulator-independent declarative representations for neural models, the use of modern scripting languages such as Python in place of simulator-specific ones and the increasing use of open-source software solutions.