Learning, or more generally, plasticity may be studied using cultured networks of rat cortical neurons on multi electrode arrays. Several protocols have been proposed to affect connectivity in such networks. One of these protocols, proposed by Shahaf and Marom, aimed to train the input-output relationship of a selected connection in a network using slow electrical stimuli. Although the results were quite promising, the experiments appeared difficult to repeat and the training protocol did not serve as a basis for wider investigation yet. Here, we repeated their protocol, and compared our ‘learning curves’ to the original results. Although in some experiments the protocol did not seem to work, we found that on average, the protocol showed a significantly improved stimulus response indeed. Furthermore, the protocol always induced functional connectivity changes that were much larger than changes that occurred after a comparable period of random or no stimulation. Finally, our data shows that stimulation at a fixed electrode induces functional connectivity changes of similar magnitude as stimulation through randomly varied sites; both larger than spontaneous connectivity fluctuations. We concluded that slow electrical stimulation always induced functional connectivity changes, although uncontrolled. The magnitude of change increased when we applied the adaptive (closed-loop) training protocol. We hypothesize that networks develop an equilibrium between connectivity and activity. Induced connectivity changes depend on the combination of applied stimulus and initial connectivity. Plain stimuli may drive networks to the nearest equilibrium that accommodates this input, whereas adaptive stimulation may direct the space for exploration and force networks to a new balance, at a larger distance from the initial state.
- BSS-Neurotechnology and cellular engineering
- Slow Electrical Stimuli
- Cultured Networks