Olson HL, Turin DR, Petzold AM. Lighting up the NMJ: developing an LED-based model of the neuromuscular junction for the undergraduate classroom. Adv Physiol Educ 44: 482-487, 2020; doi:10.1152/advan.00094.2020.-Many complex physiological processes can be introduced and explored using the framework of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ), including neurotransmitter release, membrane depolarization, and ion channel activity. While traditionally used instructional tools such as static complex drawings are useful, these images can be incomplete physiological representations due to the lack of physically moving parts. As a result, they often misrepresent the complexity of physiological phenomena to students. We describe an effort to create a more accurate, dynamic representation of the NMJ to enhance instruction in an undergraduate anatomy and physiology course. We sought to create a unique and memorable moving diagram that combines elements of static images with moving parts. To evaluate the impact of the dynamic model, students were asked about their understanding of the NMJ before and after exposure to the model. In addition, students were asked for attitudinal responses to the model and their preferred method of instruction. Analysis of student responses indicated that students enjoyed the model, although they also had concerns about the speed of the simulated ion movement being too fast. The model has also served as an informal science education art installation in presentations for prospective students, stakeholders in the broader community, including local and statewide politicians, the University president and board of trustees, donors, and other regional economic and educational leaders.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Research conducted in this study was overseen by the University of Minnesota Institutional Review Board when applicable (IRB no. 1008E87333).
- Informal science education
- Neuromuscular physiology
- Visual displays