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Need to Build a Functioning Neuron?

In Minecraft, a player creates a functional neuron

I see your log bungalow and raise you a fully-functioning ion channel. Photo: AllUpInHyuh

The video game Minecraft, says PBS’s Mike Rugnetta, “is the ultimate educational tool.” In part, because it offers a platform for experiential learning—a pixely version of the type of  hands-on fields trips that Ms. Frizzle’s class took in  The Magic School Bus. In the game, basically the most intense version of Lego you can imagine, players build whatever their heart desires from blocks of wood and grass and stone and more. Though most people are content to build houses and fend off the creepers that scour the land, some players are a bit more enthusiastic. Take, for instance, this player, who goes by AllUpInHyuh on Redditwho decided to build a working neuron in the game.

With blocks acting as sodium and potassium ions, the player writes, the model includes many of the key components of a neuron—the cells that uses ions and gates and voltage potentials to let us think, move and be alive.

Though it doesn’t really do anything, AllUpInHyuh’s neuron is a great demonstration of the kind of immersive educational opportunities that games like Minecraft could afford. Imagine your teacher walking your class through a neuron, pointing out the various features and watching them work, rather than just labelling parts of a diagram.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Video Games Are Officially Art, According to the MoMA
Being Really, Really Good at Video Games Could Get You a Scholarship

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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