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Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

Understanding the temporal evolution of neuronal connectivity in cultured networks using statistical analysis

Alessandro Napoli1*, Jichun Xie2 and Iyad Obeid1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA

2 Department of Statistics, Fox School of Business, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2014, 15:17  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-15-17

Published: 21 January 2014

Abstract

Background

Micro-Electrode Array (MEA) technology allows researchers to perform long-term non-invasive neuronal recordings in-vitro while actively interacting with the cultured neurons. Despite numerous studies carried out using MEAs, many functional, chemical and structural mechanisms of how dissociated cortical neurons develop and respond to external stimuli are not yet well understood because of the lack of quantitative studies that assess how their development can be affected by chronic external stimulation.

Methods

To investigate network changes, we analyzed a large MEA data set composed of neuron spikes recorded from cultures of dissociated rat cortical neurons plated on MEA dishes with 59 recording electrodes each. Neural network activity was recorded during the first five weeks of each culture’s in-vitro development. Stimulation sessions were delivered to each of the 59 electrodes. The False Discovery Rate technique was used to quantify the temporal evolution of dissociated cortical neurons. Our analysis focused on network responses that occurred within selected time window durations, namely 50 ms, 100 ms and 150 ms after stimulus onset.

Results

Our results show an evolution in dissociated cortical neuronal network activity over time, that reflects the network synaptic evolution. Furthermore, we tested the sensitivity of our technique to different observation time windows and found that varying the time windows, allows us to capture different dynamics of the observed responses. In addition, when selecting a 150 ms observation time window, our findings indicate that cultures dissociated from the same brain tissue display trends in their temporal evolution that are more similar than those obtained from different brains.

Conclusion

Our results emphasize that the FDR technique can be implemented without the need to make any particular assumptions about the data a priori. The proposed technique was able to capture the well-known dissociated cortical neuron networks’ temporal evolution, that has been previously observed in in-vivo and in intact brain tissue studies. Furthermore, our findings suggest that the time window that is used to capture the stimulus-evoked network responses is a critical parameter to analyze the electrical behavioral and temporal evolution of dissociated cortical neurons.