miscellaneous slide











Meet My Threshold

a parody of "Steal My Sunshine" (written by Marc Costanzo and Gregg Diamond and recorded by Len); new lyrics written by Sam Reid (2000) and revised by Greg Crowther (2014)


Sam Reid wrote this parody as an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico; I adapted it for use in Biology 220 at the University of Washington. The song explains action potentials, the basic mechanism by which electrical signals are transmitted down the axons of neurons. The song title refers to the volage threshold at which voltage-gated channels open.


I was in my resting state
on Sunday morning of last week;
My voltage-gated gates were closed.
The sodium stayed put,
but potassium was leaked,
Thus keeping membrane voltage deep.

And then, along my axon,
there came a wave of charge --
A sodium current, fast and large.
My voltage couldnít stay
down in the range of E-sub-K
With positive feedback now in play....

I know Iíll depolarize
If I meet my threshold.
My membrane potential flies
If I meet my threshold.
Every spike a constant size
If I meet my threshold.

Well, 35 mV
is about the peak for me;
Yes, thatís where the excitement ends.
The sodium gates close,
and potassium now flows,
So my potential drops again.

Mere milliseconds pass,
and thanks to the potass-
ium this voltage excursionís done.
That last peak I forget
Ďcause my membrane is reset
To start more voltage-gated fun.


Itís all or none for me
If I meet my threshold.
Neurotransmitters are set free
If I meet my threshold.
Triggering some PSPs
If I meet my threshold.

Lesson Plan

Songs like this one can be used during class meetings and/or in homework assignments. Either way, the song will be most impactful if students DO something with it, as opposed to just listening.

An initial, simple follow-up activity could be to answer the study questions below. A more extensive interaction with the song might entail (A) learning to sing it, using an audio file and/or sheet music as a guide, and/or (B) designing kinesthetic movements ("dance moves") to embody it. The latter activity could begin with students identifying the most important or most challenging content of the song, and deciding how to illustrate that particular content.

Study Questions

(1) What is EK?

(2) What are PSPs?

(3) The lyrics mention positive feedback. How does this contribute to action potentials?

(Answers may be found on the answers page.)