Getting started

Have you already installed NEST?

Then let’s look at how to create a neural network simulation!

NEST is a command line tool for simulating neural networks. A NEST simulation tries to follow the logic of an electrophysiological experiment - the difference being it takes place inside the computer rather than in the physical world.

You can use NEST interactively from the Python prompt, from within IPython or in a Jupyter Notebook. The latter is helpful when you are exploring PyNEST, trying to learn a new functionality or debugging a routine.

How does it work?

Let’s start with a basic script to simulate a simple neural network.

Run Python or a Jupyter Notebook and try out this example simulation in NEST:

Import required packages:

import nest
import nest.voltage_trace
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

Create the neuron models you want to simulate:

neuron = nest.Create('iaf_psc_exp')

Create the devices to stimulate or observe the neurons in the simulation:

spikegenerator = nest.Create('spike_generator')
voltmeter = nest.Create('voltmeter')

Modify properties of the device:

spikegenerator.set(spike_times=[10.0, 50.0])

Connect neurons to devices and specify synapse (connection) properties:

nest.Connect(spikegenerator, neuron, syn_spec={'weight': 1e3})
nest.Connect(voltmeter, neuron)

Simulate the network for the given time in miliseconds:


Display the voltage graph from the voltmeter:


You should see the following image as the output:


And that’s it! You have performed your first neuronal simulation in NEST!

Need a quieter NEST?

Take a look at the set_verbosity documentation, which describes how to display fewer messages on the terminal.

Want to know more?

  • Check out our PyNEST tutorial, which provides full explanations on how to build your first neural network simulation in NEST.

  • We have a large collection of Example networks for you to explore.

  • Regularly used terms and default physical units in NEST are explained in the Glossary.