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Emergent properties of cultured neural networks

English title Emergent properties of cultured neural networks
Applicant Streit Jürg
Number 107641
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Physiologie Medizinische Fakultät Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Neurophysiology and Brain Research
Start/End 01.04.2005 - 31.03.2008
Approved amount 294'234.00
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Keywords (6)

neural networks; central pattern generator; rhythm generation; oscillations; bursting; intrinsic activity

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
It is a generally accepted view in neuroscience that most of the functions of the central nervous system emerge on the level of networks of neurons.In the mammalian brain such networks are interacting in a complex and distributed way, making their analysis very difficult. Emerging properties on the level of defined local networks can therefore better be investigated in simplified systems like cell cultures. The use of cultures of spinal neurons has the advantage that their functions can be easily defined since they are directly connected to the motor output. A key function of these networks is rhythm and pattern generation related to repetitive movements.

Our project is involved in studying the mechanisms of rhythm and pattern generation in spinal networks in culture. We are doing this by combining multielectrode array (MEA) recordings to investigate the network level with intracellular patch clamp recordings to investigate the cellular level. At the moment we are mainly interested in a subset of intrinsically spiking neurons, which we think play a key role in rhythm generation. We want to identify these cells in terms of their synaptic connections and find out how their activity is modulated by neurotransmitters like serotonin and acetylcholine. In addition we will investigate the hypothesis that pattern generation depends on the balance of excitatory and inhibitory connections between oscillator networks. For this we want to develop a culture system in which excitatory connections between the two halves of a spinal slice can be adjusted using the growth -inhibiting protein ephrin B3.

Many of the cellular mechanisms we propose to underlie rhythm generation in spinal networks are not specific for spinal neurons. To be able to compare the details of rhythm generation and its modulation in different systems, we will develop and characterize a culture system of cortical slices on MEAs.

The major aim of our project is to gain new insights into the mechanisms of phenomena, which emerge on the level of neuronal networks. We hope that such basic knowledge about rhythm and pattern generation in newly formed networks will help to evaluate how fetal neurons form functional networks when transplanted into the injured brain or spinal cord for therapeutic purposes.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
120327 Emergent properties and rhythm generation in cultured neural networks 01.04.2008 Project funding (Div. I-III)
67048 Local neural networks as functional units: insights from spinal and cortical cultures 01.04.2002 Project funding (Div. I-III)