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Researchers Produced Complex Brain-like Functions in Vitro

Brain is one of the most sensitive and crucial organ of our body. The functioning of our body greatly depends upon the functioning of the brain.

The brain is capable of performing various functions, one of the most important and crucial function of the brain is its ability to process stimuli and generate reaction to it accordingly. In simple language it can be understood as follows: When we touch a hot object, a burning sensation occurs. As soon as this message reaches the brain, the brain processes it and eventually sends a message, as a result of which we withdraw back our hand from the hot object. Here the heat is the stimuli, and withdrawing of our hand is the response. A research has been conducted at the Tohoku University (Sendai, Japan) and the University of Barcelona wherein the researchers have developed in vitro neural circuits that generate the capacity of segregation and integration of brain circuits, resultantly enabling the team of researchers to understand the keys of dynamic reconfiguration. Dynamic reconfiguration is defined as the process of weakening of connections. The weakening is done by increasing or decreasing neuronal activity. When the cohesion of the neuronal circuits is increased, it is known as integration, on the contrary when the cohesion of the neuronal circuits is decreased, it is defined as segregation. The research basically highlights that how important and crucial is modular organization and how it increases the flexibility of a neural circuit. In other words integration may be referred to as information exchange between different and distant circuits. On the other hand, segregation refers to the processing of information in the localized circuits. When a stimulus is received, the brain processes that stimuli and generates response. In this process, the brain goes from a segregated state to an integrated one and that totally depends upon the nature and strength of stimuli. For example, while watching a movie or listening music, the brain integrates images or sounds, simultaneously the brain ignores smell and other stimuli of like nature. At times when we experience a burning smell, the brain moves into the warning state, resultantly we integrate and analyse all the information and take fast decisions. During the research, the researchers developed four types of interconnected modules. Every module represents a specialized neuronal circuit (sight or hearing). The researchers studied the ability of the circuit with the help of fluorescence calcium imaging to detect neural activations. The study concluded that “the circuit is fully integrated or segregated when the number of connections between modules is too big or too small”. The study was conducted by the following researchers: Ayumi Hirano-Iwata and Hideaki Yamamoto, from Tohoku University (Japan) and Jordi Soriano from the University of Barcelona (Spain), Shigeo Sato and Hisanao Akima (Tohoku University), Michio Niwano (Tohoku Fukushi University), Takashi Tanii (Waseda University), Shigeru Kubota (Yamagata University) and Sara Teller (University of Barcelona).

By:  Anuja Arora