The emergence of spontaneous activity in neuronal cultures

J. G. Orlandi, E. Alvarez-Lacalle, S. Teller, J. Soriano, and J. Casademunt

AIP Conf. Proc. 1510, pp. 25-27 (2012)

12th Granada Seminar, Physics, Computation, and the Mind
La Herradura, Spain. 17-21 September 2012


In vitro neuronal networks of dissociated hippocampal or cortical tissues are one of the most attractive model systems for the physics and neuroscience communities. Cultured neurons grow and mature, develop axons and dendrites, and quickly connect to their neighbors to establish a spontaneously active network within a week. The resulting neuronal network is characterized by a combination of excitatory and inhibitory neurons coupled through synaptic connections that interact in a highly nonlinear manner. The nonlinear behavior emerges from the dynamics of both the neurons’ spiking activity and synaptic transmission, together with biological noise. These ingredients give rise to a rich repertoire of phenomena that are still poorly understood, including the emergence and maintenance of periodic spontaneous activity, avalanches, propagation of fronts and synchronization. In this work we present an overview on the rich activity of cultured neuronal networks, and detail the minimal theoretical considerations needed to describe experimental observations.