A flexible, interactive software tool for fitting the parameters of neuronal models

Péter Friedrich, Michael Vella, Attila I. Gulyás, Tamás F. Freund, Szabolcs Káli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)


The construction of biologically relevant neuronal models as well as model-based analysis of experimental data often requires the simultaneous fitting of multiple model parameters, so that the behavior of the model in a certain paradigm matches (as closely as possible) the corresponding output of a real neuron according to some predefined criterion. Although the task of model optimization is often computationally hard, and the quality of the results depends heavily on technical issues such as the appropriate choice (and implementation) of cost functions and optimization algorithms, no existing program provides access to the best available methods while also guiding the user through the process effectively. Our software, called Optimizer, implements a modular and extensible framework for the optimization of neuronal models, and also features a graphical interface which makes it easy for even non-expert users to handle many commonly occurring scenarios. Meanwhile, educated users can extend the capabilities of the program and customize it according to their needs with relatively little effort. Optimizer has been developed in Python, takes advantage of open-source Python modules for nonlinear optimization, and interfaces directly with the NEURON simulator to run the models. Other simulators are supported through an external interface. We have tested the program on several different types of problems of varying complexity, using different model classes. As targets, we used simulated traces from the same or a more complex model class, as well as experimental data. We successfully used Optimizer to determine passive parameters and conductance densities in compartmental models, and to fit simple (adaptive exponential integrate-and-fire) neuronal models to complex biological data. Our detailed comparisons show that Optimizer can handle a wider range of problems, and delivers equally good or better performance than any other existing neuronal model fitting tool.

Original languageEnglish
Article number63
JournalFrontiers in Neuroinformatics
Issue numberJULY
Publication statusPublished - Jul 10 2014



  • Graphical user interface
  • Model fitting
  • Neuronal modeling
  • Parameter optimization
  • Python
  • Simulation
  • Software

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications

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