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CNR: Alamanacco della Scienza

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N. 15 - 24 nov 2010
ISSN 2037-4801

International info   a cura di Cecilia Migali

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Neuroscience: joint laboratory between Cnr and Tel Aviv University  

A joint laboratory on neuroscience between Cnr and the University of Tel Aviv has been constituted and funded in the framework of the industrial scientific and technological cooperation agreement between Italy and Israel which is managed by the Italian Ministry of foreign affairs and by the Office of the chief scientist of the Ministry of industry and trade in Israel.

The joint laboratory between Italy and Israel, coordinated on the Italian side by Antonio Politi of Cnr, aims at exploiting the complementarity between the Neurophisiology competences present within Tel Aviv University and those of the Florence Unit of the Cnr Institute on complex systems (Cnr-Isc), where one of the world leading groups in the characterization of non-linear dynamics is active since many years.
The first 5-year activity, a young Italian scientist, Paolo Bonifazi, will carry out his experimental studies at the laboratories of Tel Aviv University. He has already international experience in the field and has recently started to equip a new Laboratory in Tel Aviv with the help of Israeli contributions.

The experimental activity will be mainly devoted to grow, characterize and control cultured neural networks, developed starting from neurons taken from vertebrates (mice and rats) as well as invertebrates (locusts). The way neural networks are capable of performing computations, or better given functions is strictly related to the structure and topology of the mutual connections, in other words to the neural architecture. The intellectual challenge that the Lab wishes to face is that of understanding how given structures spontaneously emerge in ensembles of neurons subject to given stimuli. The possibility to repeat in a controlled manner growth experiments, monitoring the evolution of the connections and the behaviour of the single neurons offers a unique opportunity to identify the basic learning mechanisms. The relevance of these studies is further strengthened by the huge potentiality that would open up as a result of the ability to control the growth itself: it is sufficient to mention the medical applications of techniques that could trigger self-repairing of neural tissues. Given the acquired ability of the Israeli partners to work with cultures of neural networks, it has been agreed that such investigations represent the founding element for the future research activity to be carried out in the next five years.

The data collected at Tel Aviv University will represent a useful source of information for the Italian researchers at Isc. On the one hand, they plan to analyse the time series with all possible available techniques, including the most advanced ones that have been recently developed in the Florence Institute. This analysis should aim identifying functional relationships, synchronization clusters, and all other dynamical phenomena of the underlying complex dynamics. At the same time, the Isc researchers will also compare the experimental signals with numerical data obtained by simulating on the computer various kinds of neural networks with the goal of identifying the basic mechanisms that rule the network growth and dynamics.

Finally, it should not be underestimated the possibility of founding an experimental Laboratory in Italy, by transferring the experimental competences acquired by the young Italian researchers. This would improve the synergy of the interaction between neurophysiologists and physicists.

Fonte: Francesca Tolve, Cnr- Ufficio Accordi e Relazioni Internazionali, tel. 06/49932211, email francesca.tolve@cnr.it

Fonte: Antonio Politi, Centro di responsabilità scientifica ex Sistemi Complessi (Sperimentale), Sesto Fiorentino, tel. +39 055 522 6632 -, email antonio.politi@isc.cnr.it