Virtual Neuroscience Lab #2: Parkinson's Study
Contributors:  David L. Anderson: Author, Storyboards
Paul Garris: Author, Storyboards
Darci J. Harland: Author, Storyboards
Andrew T. Kenning: Author, Storyboards
Elisa Palmer: Author, Storyboards
Kevin Stewart: Animations, Artwork, Audio/Video Engineering, Author, Design, Programming
Robert Stufflebeam: Author, Storyboards
Ji Zheng: Animations, Artwork



Parkinson's Disease damages the brain's ability to perform normal motor functions. Scientists have discovered that these motor deficits occur because of the loss of dopamine neurons, What remains surprising, though, is the fact that a patient can lose 80% of the dopamine neurons before any symptoms are evident. But how is that possible? How does the body compensate for this loss and continue to function normally with only 20% of the original dopamine neurons. This is a virtual lab where the student become a neurobiologist using state-of-the-art techniques to implant electrodes into the brain of a (virtual) rat and to take readings of dopamine levels to test two competing theories that seek to explain how the body "compensates" for the loss of neurons.

The lab is a Flash file that will play in any browser that has a recent Adobe Flash plug-in. To download a new plug-in, go to Adobe.


Our latest and most sophisticated virtual lab is now available for use in the classroom. We believe it will be a rewarding experience for you.

VIDEO Introduction (for teachers, not students)
Student Resources
  • Student Handouts

    These are handouts for students to use while they are doing the virtual lab.

Teacher Resources

This lab has a "skip menu" which allows you to jump to different locations in the lab. Once a browser window is closed, the program can't remember your progress from one session to the next. Since the entire lab typically takes 2-3 days to complete, this allows a class to stop at a designated point on Day 1 and restart together on Day 2 by jumping to that location. To access the skip menu: Hold down the "shift" key and then press "ctrl" key. Hit "reload" on browser to begin again. Warning: By using the skip menu you permanently leave your present location in the lab. If you were in the middle of a complex task, you will not be able to return to that exact location. But you will be able to jump to one of the nine pre-established locations in the lab.

  • Virtual Parkinson's Lab

    The lab is a Flash file that will play in any browser that has a recent Adobe Flash plug-in. To download a new plug-in, go to Adobe.

    For details about using this lab in the classroom we recommend that you read the professional development PDF and the student handout PDF (see above).

  • Overview - Main Content Covered in "Virtual Parkinson's Lab"

    The Virtual Parkinson's Lab (above) takes 2+ hours of focused engagement to complete all of the activities required by this lab. In contrast, this is a single webpage with a dozen of the most important embedded Flash animations together with text that explains most of the neurobiological content that students will learn from doing the lab. Some teachers will choose to have their students carefully read this page and engage the animations, rather than completing the entire lab. And for those who have completed the lab, this is a convenient summary of a majority of the key content.

    NOTE This page has an audio track of constant white-noise, an artifact from the lab we were unable to remove. We recommend: turn off your speakers. There is no other audio.


This module was funded by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) #R25RR020425, supported by the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).