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Boris Barbour’s personal page

  1. Electronics for electrophysiologists tutorial
  2. Training courses
  3. Teaching
  4. Streaming code for the Arduino Due
  5. Post-publication peer review
  6. PubPeer

Electronics for electrophysiologists tutorial

I have written a tutorial explaining the function and operation of patch-clamp amplifiers. You can download the tutorial here. The originality of this guide is that amplifier adjustment is illustrated using a dual recording from a real neurone ; one electrode faithfully reports the membrane potential, while the second electrode and amplifier are put through the various adjustments made in current-clamp and voltage-clamp. The presentation of the material has been honed over years of teaching in the courses described below.

Training courses

I teach on the Microelectrode techniques for cell physiology at the MBA in Plymouth, UK and help organise, as well as teach on, the Paris Spring School on Optical imaging and electrophysiological recording in neuroscience.

Teaching

I mostly teach in the Imalis masters.

I organise the M1 course S10 : Synaptic foundations of network function and contribute to the earlier S09 : Neuron physiology course, which is a near-essential prerequisite for S10. At M2 level, in the Neurophysiology module, I contribute hands-on practicals in analog and digital electronics, as well as in introductory numerical analysis. I also co-tutor personal modelling projects with a theoretician in the Interdisciplinary tutorials in neuroscience course.

Streaming code for the Arduino Due

In setting up a behavioural experiment requiring the generation and recording of ultrasound, I was led to rewrite large parts of the USB receive code for the Arduino Due, accelerating it at least 20-fold. The code is available on GitHub

Post-publication peer review

I believe that there should be much more open and direct scientific discussion, in particular making use of internet technologies. In this spirit I have published a number of online comments, preprints and even papers, often in cases of disagreement. Selected commentaries are listed below.

Electrodiffusion

The group of Dmitri Rusakov suggested that synaptic currents could influence diffusion of charged neurotransmitter molecules and thus the synaptic current itself. Although qualitatively plausible, I felt that the experimental and modelling parts of their paper involved disjoint time scales. Posted on PubPeer.

Resource-efficient synaptic transmission

Another paper from the Rusakov group suggested that synaptic structure optimised the entropic information of neurotransmitter diffusion. I argued that this quantity was of no benefit to neurones. Posted on PubPeer.

Recording the cerebellar pinceau

While elucidating the mechanism of ultra-fast single-cell ephaptic transmission between cerebellar basket and Purkinje cells in a structure called the pinceau (Blot and Barbour, 2014), we discovered that a previous article on the subject had recorded an artefact. Our description of this was allegedly the first neuroscience paper on the bioRxiv.

Extracellular impedance

In a series of papers, the group of Claude Bédard and Alain Destexhe reported that the extracellular impedance in brain tissue, instead of being boringly low and resistive, as many experiments and theories have demonstrated, is excitingly high and reactive. I argued in an ArXiv preprint and on PubMed Commons that their evidence for abandoning the well established consensus is not strong. At all.

The charge liberation movement

David Holcman and Rafael Yuste argued in a `perspective’ in Nature Reviews Neuroscience that we should cast off the shackles of electroneutrality when modelling current flow in dendritic spines. I argued on PubMed Commons that electroneutrality is assumed for a good reason—even the tiniest deviations require amounts of energy that are unavailable in a biological setting.

PubPeer

Disclaimer : my work for PubPeer is carried out in my spare time ; the CNRS, ENS (IBENS) and INSERM do not endorse the site, its activities or mine for the site. The views expressed at the links given below are mine and not those of my institutions or employers. Continue reading at your peril :-)

The PubPeer platform aims to facilitate and centralise discussion about any and all scientific publications. Founded by Brandon Stell and two colleagues in 2012, I joined them informally shortly afterwards and am now a co-organiser of the site and member of the board of the PubPeer Foundation. One of the site’s distinguishing features and no doubt its most controversial is that it allows anonymous commenting.

Background information exists on the site : About and FAQ.

I have contributed to several blog posts covering the problems of distorted incentives in research today, the issue of anonymous commenting and the difficulties of correcting science :
A crisis of Trust
Vigilant scientists
Nature editors : all hat and no cattle

If you prefer a moving information source, you can view a 30 minute video of me explaining the site at the 2017 World Conference on Research Integrity.