Speaker: Nathalia Peixoto, George Mason University
Title: Brain in a cup: attempts at deciphering the meaning of spikes

Abstract: The two main types of cells found in the brain, neurons and glia, when maintained in culture under physiological conditions, establish electrically active networks which evolve morphologically over time. The electrical activity measured from such networks can be monitored for months through electrode arrays. The culture can be stimulated electrically, chemically, or via temperature variations imposed externally. This system, which we call here ‘brain in a cup’ to underline the confined environment where the networks are kept, has been the subject of numerous studies. The spatiotemporal dynamics of these approximately one hundred spiking neurons recorded from a network of thousands of cells has inspired interesting questions from neuroscience to control theory. Early grandiose ideas of a true biological basis of computation and of a long-term bioelectronic interface have given way to shorter term objectives of investigating the dynamics of neuronal networks themselves and of insights into the mechanisms of evolving networks. Pertinent questions include investigation into network formation, connectivity patterns, propagation of activity, plasticity, and classification of stimuli. In this talk I will discuss some of the attempts to investigate the meaning of spiking activity in networks and how they may relate to relevant clinical applications.

Time: Friday, Apr. 29, 2011, 1:30-2:30 p.m.

Place: Science and Tech I, Room 242

Department of Mathematical Sciences
George Mason University
4400 University Drive, MS 3F2
Fairfax, VA 22030-4444
Tel. 703-993-1460, Fax. 703-993-1491