The first and most obvious answer to the question of whether or not it is worthwhile to spend a week studying how potentials are generated in single cells is that it must be or else we would not do it. However, I am certain that there is a greater depth to the question than such a simple and trite response. The transmission of signals, whether from an external input to a sensory neuron or between axons of interneurons, is the most essential aspect of the nervous system; it defines it as a system and maintains its worth and presence within the body. The single-celled components of the system, the neurons, are the most basic aspect and they therefore are models for the nervous system as a whole. The transmissions and signals used by the neurons are representative of the signals used on a larger scale. It is then inherently appropriate that the nervous system be first understood at its least complex level and such understanding will implement comprehension of the remainder of the system.

To understand behavior, one must return to the statement asserted at the opening of the class: the brain is behavior; the nervous system does not simply direct or control behavior, it is behavior. Having faith that such a statement is true, one can transitively understand that behavior is essentially a series of inputs and outputs. Therefore, it is conceivable that a complete understanding of the process of inputs and outputs in relation to the neurons implies further comprehension of behavior. It is essential in understanding both the nervous system as a physical entity and behavior as a more abstract consequence of it that one gain full comprehension of its most simple element and its functions, namely the potentials of the neurons.

"... it must be or we wouldn't do it" presumes a very large amount of confidence in the instructor. I hope I can live up to that. But indeed some less trust-dependent reasons. Neurons as models of the nervous system as a whole an interesting (and I think appropriate) approach. Am less sure that it is obvious (or even the case) that "a complete understanding of ... neurons" necessarily implies "a further comprehension of behavior". There's a lot of distance between the former and the latter, and it MIGHT be that the properties of neurons are more or less irrelevant. PG