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Exploration of hierarchical leadership and connectivity in neural networks in vitro.

Description: Living neural networks are capable of processing information much faster than a modern computer, despite running at significantly lower clock speeds. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms neural networks utilize is an issue of substantial importance. Neuronal interaction dynamics were studied using histiotypic networks growing on microelectrode arrays in vitro. Hierarchical relationships were explored using bursting (when many neurons fire in a short time frame) dynamics, pairwise neuronal activation, and information theoretic measures. Together, these methods reveal that global network activity results from ignition by a small group of burst leader neurons, which form a primary circuit that is responsible for initiating most network-wide burst events. Phase delays between leaders and followers reveal information about the nature of the connection between the two. Physical distance from a burst leader appears to be an important factor in follower response dynamics. Information theory reveals that mutual information between neuronal pairs is also a function of physical distance. Activation relationships in developing networks were studied and plating density was found to play an important role in network connectivity development. These measures provide unique views of network connectivity and hierarchical relationship in vitro which should be included in biologically meaningful models of neural networks.
Date: December 2008
Creator: Ham, Michael I.
Partner: UNT Libraries