In vitro studies of neuronal networks and synaptic plasticity in invertebrates and in mammals using multielectrode arrays

Neural Plast. 2015;2015:196195. doi: 10.1155/2015/196195. Epub 2015 Mar 17.


Brain functions are strictly dependent on neural connections formed during development and modified during life. The cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying synaptogenesis and plastic changes involved in learning and memory have been analyzed in detail in simple animals such as invertebrates and in circuits of mammalian brains mainly by intracellular recordings of neuronal activity. In the last decades, the evolution of techniques such as microelectrode arrays (MEAs) that allow simultaneous, long-lasting, noninvasive, extracellular recordings from a large number of neurons has proven very useful to study long-term processes in neuronal networks in vivo and in vitro. In this work, we start off by briefly reviewing the microelectrode array technology and the optimization of the coupling between neurons and microtransducers to detect subthreshold synaptic signals. Then, we report MEA studies of circuit formation and activity in invertebrate models such as Lymnaea, Aplysia, and Helix. In the following sections, we analyze plasticity and connectivity in cultures of mammalian dissociated neurons, focusing on spontaneous activity and electrical stimulation. We conclude by discussing plasticity in closed-loop experiments.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aplysia / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Electrophysiology / methods*
  • Helix, Snails / physiology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Invertebrates / physiology*
  • Learning / physiology
  • Lymnaea / physiology
  • Memory / physiology
  • Microelectrodes*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Rats