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Neuroscience and Brain Technologies

 

Neural plasticity in health and disease: studying information processing in the brain, and interfacing neural networks with the external world

The brain is still considered the best performing computation device known so far. It exhibits astonishing properties including highly complex and hierarchic organization, input integration, parallel computation, emergent properties, functional and structural adaptation (plasticity). The latter phenomenon is believed to be the basis of higher brain functions and, at the same time, to be precociously impaired in brain diseases.
The focus of the NBT research is the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of neurotransmission and synaptic plasticity, from individual synapses to synaptic circuits up to brain diseases and to interfacing brain with chips. The strength of a connection between two neurons can be either enhanced or depressed and these changes span a wide range of time windows from milliseconds to years. These mechanisms are believed to be the basis of the modifications in information flow and processing induced by epigenetic factors and eventually lead to learning and memory.
In addition, the central nervous system is the new "scientific paradigm" for information  technologies and the concept of "embodied brain" inspires humanoid robots. This has greatly stimulated the attempts to create bio-hybrid/biomimetic devices in which brain tissue is interfaced with electronic chips and to embody neuronal networks by bidirectionally connecting them to robotic bodies.

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Main aims of research

  • to elucidate the molecular and cellular mechanisms of neural plasticity;
  • to understand the mechanisms and neural strategies for adaptation, learning and memory;
  • to apply this knowledge to the implementation and testing of innovative neurocomputer prototypes;
  • to understand the pathogenic mechanisms of brain diseases such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, autism, addiction and  neurodegenerative diseases;
  • to create chronically active artificial networks in vitro to be interfaced with electronic chips and external biological/ robotic actuators with potential application in the biosensors and neuroprosthesis fields.

    These aims are pursued by four main interdisciplinary fields of research:

  • Cellular Neurophysiology
  • Molecular Neurobiology
  • Neurotechnologies
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • intro-graphic

    Last Updated on Thursday, 19 April 2012 13:25

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