The fascinating world of in vitro neuronal cultures: complex networks, engineering, and biological computation

Biological neurons grown in the laboratory in the form of neuronal cultures are one of the most compelling examples of a complex system, in which an ensemble of initially disconnected neurons is able to reconnect and form a de novo complex network within days. This network may display different forms of collective activity that depend on the underpinned connectivity between neurons. By using resources from neuroengineering, one can control this connectivity and build in vitro systems that mimic key organizational features of the brain, specifically modularity. Such systems are useful not only to understand the emergence of collective behavior in neuronal assemblies, but also to design brain-on-chip models to explore and treat neurological disorders in a controlled manner. Additionally, neuronal cultures exhibit a superb capacity to adapt, sustain damage and regenerate, which has caught the attention of industries as different as space exploration and videogames. In this talk, I will describe the above aspects in relation to the experiments in my laboratory at the University of Barcelona, and I will also introduce recent developments in the context of biological computation and biohybrid devices, where electronic and biological circuits interact with one another.

Link to the seminar: