CORDIS - EU research results

Neuro-cognitive science and information technology virtual University

Final Activity Report Summary - NEUROVERS-IT (Neuro-cognitive science and information technology virtual University)

The theme of the project is the potential of in vitro neuronal networks as a novel class of 'computational device'. Such devices, the partners believe, could provide capabilities that are impossible to implement in silicon. For example, they could learn, adapt to their environment and repair themselves. In some ways, they would be similar to the networks of neurons we find in human brains.

Harnessing the computational power of living neurons will require contributions from many different disciplines. In this setting, Neurovers-IT's goal is to provide young researchers with the multidisciplinary training they require to enter this new and exciting field. To achieve this, the project brought together a European network of partners from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland, who provide young researchers enrolled in the program with hands-on experience in their own specific area of specialisation, while at the same time making them familiar with what is going on in other related disciplines.

Over the duration of the project, the universities participating in the project hosted 9 Early Stage Researchers and 7 Experienced Researchers, from 10 different countries, often for periods of between two and three years. During this time, each researcher conducted research on a broad range of topics including human and animal cognition and perception, cultured neuronal networks, growing on multi-electrode arrays, hardware and software making it possible to capture signals from growing neuronal networks and to provide them with stimuli; the neuronal code, neuronal development, and the way neuronal networks process visual information.

Results were published in several major high impact journals. Major achievements include:
(i) techniques for analysing neuronal signals from patients undergoing surgery for Parkinson's disease and for predicting the severity of symptoms;
(ii) identification of a candidate psycho-physiological mechanism for observed Parkinson's symptoms;
(iii) experimental demonstration that electrical stimulation can change the activity of a cultured neuronal network, even when the ability to learn is blocked by drugs;
(iv) hardware and software allowing researchers to process signals from neuronal cultures, to stimulate cultures electrically and thus to connect cultures to an external device (such as a robot);
(v) analysis of the presence of neurotransmitters and neuromodulators during the development process and realistic simulations of the process;
(vi) a realistic model of visual processing in the retuina and the Lateral Geniculate Nucleus (the brain's primary processing centre for visual information received from the retina).

In parallel with this program of 'learning by research', Neurovers-IT promoted a multi-disciplinary, multi-national program of formal training activities bringing together fellows and staff members from the institutions participating in the program. The most important included;
(i) a large scale Summer school attended by more than 50 researchers from inside and outside the program;RL (ii) four 'Team Building Workshops' in which the fellows discussed their research and the ways in which it contributed to the goals of the project;
(iii) 5 specialist workshops on themes of interest to the project (neuronal cultures and modeling, robotics, VLSI electronics, microfabrication, in vitro culturing and recording;
(iv) three workshops on 'transversal skills' (scientific writing, writing a European project proposal, oral presentation skills);
(v) a distance learning program allowing fellows in different locations to participate in online seminars and to listen to online lectures;
(vi) a rich program of international traineeships and lab exchanges.