An educational application for neuroscience

Simulation software for spiking neuronal network models matured in the past decades regarding performance and flexibility. Nevertheless, the entry barrier remains high for students and early career scientists in computational neuroscience since these simulators typically require programming skills and a complex installation. Here, we describe an installation-free graphical user interface (GUI) running in the web browser, which is distinct from the simulation engine running anywhere, on the student’s laptop or on a supercomputer.

This architecture provides robustness against technological changes in the software stack and simplifies the deployment process for students/autodidacts and for teachers. Our new open source tool, NEST Desktop [1], comprises graphical elements for creating and configuring network models, running simulations, as well as for visualizing and analyzing the results. NEST Desktop allows students to explore important concepts in computational neuroscience without the need to learn a simulator control language before.

Our experiences so far highlight that NEST Desktop helps advancing both quality and intensity of teaching in computational neuroscience in regular university courses. We view the availability of the tool on public resources like the European ICT infrastructure for neuroscience EBRAINS as a contribution to equal opportunities [2].

A paper for NEST Desktop is available on eNeuro.




This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation under Specific Grant Agreement No. 785907 (Human Brain Project SGA2) and No. 945539 (Human Brain Project SGA3). This project was funded by the Helmholtz Association Initiative and Networking Fund under project number SO-092 (Advanced Computing Architectures, ACA). This work was supported by the DFG Excellence Cluster BrainLinks-BrainTools (grant EXC 1086).


In order to cite NEST Desktop in general, please use the DOI 10.5281/zenodo.5037050 for all versions (always redirecting to the latest version). If you like to refer to a single version, you can find these also on Zenodo, e.g. 10.5281/zenodo.5037051 for Version 3.0. You can use the reference to the paper for NEST Desktop (DOI: 10.1523/ENEURO.0274-21.2021) mentioned above as well, if that is more appropriate in the context of your reference.

You will also find the exports for the citation managers on Zenodo and eNeuro.