Enrollment is closed
  • End of Registration
  • Registration closed
  • Classes Start
  • oct 03 2017
  • Classes End
  • dec 05 2017
  • Estimated Effort
  • 1-3 h/week
  • Language
  • English

About the course

How does information circulate in the nervous system? How is the universal language of neurons, the action potential, generated? How does it travel along axons? And how does it influence other neurons? Thanks to this MOOC, you will master these basic principles of neuronal physiology.

This MOOC is especially intended for students in biological sciences, high school science teachers, graduate students, research assistants and researchers who want to understand electrophysiology basics.

With an emphasis on the experimental approach, this course will address:

  • the ion concentration gradient and membrane potential that control the movement of ions across the neuronal membrane. These ion movements create ion currents;
  • the genesis of the action potential and its propagation to the axon terminals;
  • the function of the synapse: neurotransmitter release, postsynaptic glutamate and GABA receptors, postsynaptic currents and their integration.

Course format

Every week, the chapter includes:

  • short didactic videos presenting cellular neurophysiology
  • videos of experiments performed in a research laboratory
  • additional documents for those who want to deepen some concepts
  • automatically corrected quizzes to check that you understand the key concepts
  • a forum to discuss with one another, to stay motivated and to learn even more!


We strongly recommend that you know essential concepts of cell biology (cell, membrane...) and a few basics of chemistry (ions, proteins...). We will review some principles, but this course is for people who have completed a year of college/university in a scientific field. It is even better if you know some physics (the notions of current, potential, resistance), but do note that we will use only two mathematical equations in this course.

Obviously, this training also requires you to be able to use a computer and the internet and that you have enough motivation and autonomy to complete it.

Course content

  • Week 1: Ion gradients
  • Week 2: Action potential
  • Week 3: Neurotransmitter release
  • Week 4: Glutamatergic synaptic transmission
  • Week 5: GABAergic synaptic transmission
  • Week 6: Postsynaptic integration

The MOOC team

portrait Constance Hammond

Constance Hammond, Ph.D.

INSERM emeritus research director at INMED, in Marseille, Constance Hammond led a team interested in the basal ganglia. She also created the Tous chercheurs experimental center, where high school students and patients come to work just like researchers, under the supervision of researchers, in a fully-equipped research laboratory.

Portrait Isabelle Virard

Isabelle Virard, Ph.D.

Passionate about teaching science, Isabelle Virard manages this MOOC and coordinates its technical support.

Terms of participation and workload

Watching the videos, reading the main documents and testing your knowledge with the weekly quizzes require about one to two hours of work per chapter. However, add 1 hour per week if you plan on reading the additional resources and participating in the forums.


This MOOC issues a certificate to those who have successfully completed the course.

To validate the course, you need to:

  • pass five quizzes (one per week) and a final exam,
  • answer the questions in two surveys

Recommended reading

It is not mandatory to buy a textbook to take this course and to obtain the certificate. However, if you want to learn more, you can read the articles, view the videos and visit the websites listed in each chapter in the "For further study" sections.

Scientific and financial partners

Aix Marseille University and the Mediterranean Institute of Neurobiology (INMED), an INSERM laboratory, created this neurophysiology MOOC, thanks to an A*MIDEX funding.

logo Aix Marseille Universite

Aix Marseille University (AMU)

Located mainly in the cities of Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, Aix Marseille University is the largest French-speaking university in the world and hosts a large community of scientists, especially in the field of neuroscience (see the Neuro-Marseille.org website).


Mediterranean Institute of Neurobiology (INMED)

The INMED lab virtually welcomes you during this MOOC. It is a joint research center affiliated to INSERM and Aix Marseilles University, where researchers study the development and plasticity of neural networks as well as pathologies linked to brain development.


National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM)

The laboratory that opens its doors during this MOOC is attached to INSERM, a French public scientific and technological institution specialized in medical research.



In response to the “Initiatives of Excellence” (Idex) call for projects from the “Investments into the future” governmental program, the A*MIDEX project was developed by Aix Marseille University and its partners to enhance Aix-Marseille University teaching, research and development. The Brain Master Program, at the origin of this MOOC, was awarded an A*MIDEX funding in 2014.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to register to this course?

Taking the MOOC and getting the certificate are both free.

Will I get a certificate at the end of this course?

Yes, participants who complete all required evaluations will receive a certificate from France Université Numérique.

Can I validate academic credits from Aix Marseille University?

No, for now, taking this course does not allow you to validate university credits. However, you may show your interest in neuroscience and put forth your newly-acquired knowledge to potential employers or educational institutions.

Will this course talk about brain functions (cognition, memory, language, sleep...)?

No, it is a course on cellular neurophysiology, we will not address these integrative aspects of neuroscience.

Will this course address brain diseases (Parkinson’s or Alzheimer's diseases, multiple sclerosis...)?

No, this course focuses on the molecular mechanisms involved in healthy neurons. We will not have time to cover brain diseases, except briefly when we interview a medical doctor specialized in epilepsy.

What techniques will be presented during this course?

We will present an electrophysiology technique (patch-clamp) and calcium imaging.

How can this course be useful in my studies or my work?

This course will familiarize you with cutting-edge techniques currently used in research laboratories. If you are a student, it will help you better understand your neurophysiology courses. If you know researchers in neuroscience, it will teach you vocabulary and principles that will allow you to better understand their work.

Once I have completed this course, how can I learn more about the topic?

We hope to pursue this introductory course in neurophysiology and make a level 2 MOOC. In the meantime, we invite you to read neurophysiology textbooks.

You can also register to neuroscience graduate programs (master's or Ph.D. levels).


  • Center for Innovation in Teaching and Assessment (CIPE)
  • Tom Grainger, Luminy Interdepartmental Center for Language Teaching (CIELL)
  • Credits

    Shooting and editing

    Marine Chabrolin

    Music (teaser)

    Josh Woodward

    Graphic design (teaser)

    Freepik.com, Géraldine Fohr, Marine Chabrolin

    Photography (presentation page header)

    INSERM / Patrice Latron : Imaging cultured neuronal cells in real-time.

    Terms of use

    Course content

    Rights reserved

    The institution grants you a personal, non-exclusive and non-transferable license allowing you to access and use the content on the FUN MOOC site. In any case, you cannot use the content published on the FUN MOOC site for purposes other than personal. Any reproduction, dissemination and collective use, any commercial use, or any transfer to a third-party, as is or modified, of the course, of its content, or of a piece of work included in it, are strictly forbidden without authorization.

    Content produced by the participants

    By default: BY-NC-SA Creative Commons License

    The user must give appropriate credit, may not use the material for commercial purposes and may distribute derivative works only under a license identical ("not more restrictive") to the license that governs the original work.