One of the most challenging problems in neuroscience is understanding how the brain performs computations. This requires understanding of how the network of neurons takes a set of inputs and transforms it into a set of outputs. The use of cultured neuronal networks is used as a model to study their in vivo counterparts. It allows researchers to investigate neuronal activity in a much more controlled environment than would be possible in a live organism. Moreover, chemical analysis of the neurons and their environment is more easily accomplished than in an in vivo setting. The animat project at the University of Reading concentrates on characterisation of acetylcholine (Ach) receptors in the cultures, on characterisation of functional connectivity and the dynamics of activity of cultures. The current project is on combining the computational neuroscience modelling of the activity of cultures (in the presence of Acetylcholine) with the recent approaches to assessing functional connectivity based on estimating the joint probability distribution of culture activity patterns using Ising models stemming from statistical physics. The model would account for the activity patterns observed in the cultures and explain them in terms of biological factors shaping the activity (e.g. the existence and positioning of Ach).
Project Research Group
Professor of Cybernetics, University of Reading
Dr of Cybernetics, University of Reading
PhD Student, School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading