Neuroscience Animations




Natural Reward Pathways Exist in the Brain

Make a Mad, Mad, Mad Neuron

Neurons Communicate Via the Synapse

Drugs Alter the Brain's Reward Pathway

Drugs of Abuse

  • Drugs of Abuse: A quick introduction to the many drugs of abuse and their effects on the body.

The Physiology of The High

Within seconds of entering the body, drugs cause dramatic changes to synapses in the brain. By bypassing the five senses and directly activating the brain's reward circuitry fast and hard, drugs can cause a jolt of intense pleasure.

  • Mouse Party: Take a look inside the brains of mice on drugs. Learn how various drugs disrupt the synapse to make the user feel "high"

The Brain's Coping Mechanism

Drugs of abuse affect the brain in such a dramatic way that the brain must try to adapt. One way the brain compensates is to reduce the number of dopamine receptors at the synapse. As a result, after the user has "come down", they will need more of the drug next time they want to get high. This response is commonly referred to as "tolerance."

  • Cerebral Commando: In Cerebral Commando you are in charge of recycling dopamine at the synapse. Seems easy, but watch out! Can you keep up when drugs are added?

Genetics Is An Important Factor In Addiction

Susceptibility Does Not Mean Inevitability

"Just because you are prone to addiction doesn't mean you're going to become addicted. It just means you've got to be careful."

Hearing and Seeing: Models for Thought

Science is largely driven by curiosity and the desire to understand our place in the world. Neuroscience, focused on understanding how nervous systems work, is no exception. Diverse tools and methods are used to explore topics such as sensory perception, the control of movement, and even thinking.

Neuroscience: Animations (Howard Hughes Medical Institute)

From the 2008 Holiday Lectures — Making Your Mind: Molecules, Motion, and Memory

The Cochlea

A dramatic illustration of how hearing happens in the ear. Includes audio narration.

Exclusion Mapping

A useful technique for narrowing down the location of a gene involves comparing the chromosomes of affected siblings. Two sisters with Rett syndrome allow researchers an opportunity to map the most likely location of the gene by excluding areas of the chromosome that are not alike. Includes audio narration.


This animation shows how the protein MECP2, in conjuction with another protein complex, can act as an "on-off' switch for gene expression. Includes audio narration.

  • MECP2 (Howard Hughes Medical Institute)

The Proteasome

A 3D animation showing how proteins in the cell are tagged for disposal and degraded by the proteasome. Includes audio narration.

SCA1 Pedigree

Illustrates how studying one family's pedigree can reveal an entire history of passing on a genetic disorder such as SCA1.

Tri Nucleotide Repeat

Slippage during DNA replication can lead to expanding sections of repeating nucleotides. Watch this animation to see how this problem occurs. Includes audio narration.

X Inactivation

This animation shows how the random deactivation of one of the X chromosomes in a pair can lead to a mozaicism in the expression genes. Includes audio narration.

Probe the Brain

Map the brain with your trusty electric probe. Beginning in the 1940s, Canadian brain surgeon Wilder Penfield mapped the brain's motor cortex -- the area that controls the movement of your body's muscles. He did this by applying mild electric currents to the exposed brains of patients while they were in surgery. Now you can relive his exploration of the brain. In the following feature we give you an electric probe and an exposed brain. All you need to do is shock and observe.

The Brain

Animated Tutorials: Neurobiology/Biopsychology

Neurobiology Animations

Increased Receptor Sensitivity: In LTP, it is now known that the postsynaptic neuron becomes more sensitive to neurotransmitter in a variety of ways. One way is that phophorylation of the glutamate receptor causes it to pass more excitatory ions upon subsequent stimulation. Long-Term Potentiation: In LTP, neurons continue to fire at an elevated rate, even though the stimulus has returned to normal. LTP Mechanisms: The two main hypotheses to explain LTP are presynaptic, in which increased neurotransmitter is released; and postsynaptic, in which sensitivity to neurotransmitter is somehow increased. Neuronal Stem Cells: Fred Gage has found that new neurons are formed in two areas of the brain: the hippocampus (shown in yellow) and in the subventricular zone (in light blue). Reward Pathway: The main structures that make up the reward pathway are the ventral tegmental area, the nucleus accumbens (both shown in purple), the amygdala (in green), and the prefrontal cortex (in grey). Synapse: Neurons have two ends Ê dendrites and an axon Ê which they use to communicate with one another via neurotransmitters. Synaptic Vesicles: Synaptic vesicles fuse with the presynaptic membrane, freeing neurotransmitter molecules into the synaptic space.

Summer 2005 Neurobiology Teacher Animations (HHMI)

The Flash animations below are based upon storyboards created by participants in our 2005 Summer Workshop for High School Teachers.

Turning Thought Into Action
See how tiny openings enable body cells to send signals to each other, from the brain to the tip of our toes.

Neurobiology Animations