Engineering solutions to the problem of neural organisation and connectivity in vitro.

Brains and their electrical circuits are a phenomenal example of a self-driven assembly of staggering complexity (80 billion neurones with 1 trillion connections). We cannot easily study the function of the human nervous system in vivo for obvious ethical and practical considerations. However, it is now possible to replicate many functions of the nervous system in a petri-dish (in vitro) using human induced pluripotent stem cells (hIPSCs). Sadly, such approaches fail to replicate an important aspect of the nervous system; the tightly controlled regionalisation of neuronal subtypes and their connectivity, the so-called architectonics of the nervous system. A successful replication of the architectural anatomy and well as the connectivity of classes of neurones in vitro would be a massive step forward in our understanding of brain function in health and disease. In this virtual project will review the available data and attempts to achieve this goal in vitro and design an engineering solution to help solve this problem. The results will have implications for engineering the repair and replacement of damaged nerves and the development of truly realistic neuronal networks.

Supervisor name: 
Dr Euan R Brown
Supervisor and Deputy email addresses:,
Project location: 
JN 1.33
Deputy name: 
Prof Nick Leslie