Reflected at any level of organization of the central nervous system, most of the processes ranging from ion channels to neuronal networks occur in a closed loop, where the input to the system depends on its output. In contrast, most in vitro preparations and experimental protocols operate autonomously, and do not depend on the output of the studied system. Thanks to the progress in digital signal processing and real-time computing, it is now possible to artificially close the loop and investigate biophysical processes and mechanisms under increased realism. In this contribution, we review some of the most relevant examples of a new trend in in vitro electrophysiology, ranging from the use of dynamic-clamp to multi-electrode distributed feedback stimulation. We are convinced these represents the beginning of new frontiers for the in vitro investigation of the brain, promising to open the still existing borders between theoretical and experimental approaches while taking advantage of cutting edge technologies.