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Complex network control of stem cell derived cultures

Project Description

"In order to create a next generation of interfaces between prosthetic devices and the nervous system or to create next generation of intelligent robots – hybrids between artificial and biological systems, it is necessary to understand the principles that allow biological networks to achieve control of bodies. Complex networks theory – blend of graph theory, statistics and probability offers very appealing framework for understanding complex systems and has been increasingly used in order to describe the activity of the nervous system. Such descriptive approaches have been more recently augmented from the control theoretic perspective e.g. questions have been asked related to controllability of complex networks and specific control schemes that may be required in order for the networks to exhibit desired behaviour. Such approaches have also been applied to complex networks derived from their natural counterparts, e.g. networks of C. Elegans or even functional connectivity networks obtained from imaging human subjects. There have been however publications voicing reservations about the utility of such approach and pointing to its limitations.
This project will investigate the complex networks control approaches using cultures of stem-cell derived neurons. Various schemes of control proposed in the literature will be evaluated and their characteristics derived by combination of analytic and simulation tools and ultimately by attempting to achieve control of cultured neural networks. As a result, insights will be generated that can inform us about the fundamental principles of the operation of the nervous system, and at the same time elucidating on the optimal means of interfacing with it technological artefacts.

The project will be hosted by the School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading. The University of Reading is one of the UK’s 20 most research-intensive universities and among the top 200 universities in the world. Achievements include the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement (1989) and the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education (1998, 2006 and 2009). This project will take place in the Brain Embodiment Lab within Biomedical Engineering Section of the School of Biological Sciences (SBS), which has a strong reputation for its innovative research in cybernetics, and biomedical engineering, including Brain Computer Interfaces, animats - robots controlled by cultures of living neuronal cells and cognitive robotics systems.

For informal inquiries please contact Prof SJ Nasuto, email: .

Funding Notes

Eligibility requirements:

Applicants should have a bachelors (at least 2.1 or equivalent) or masters degree in physics,
applied mathematics, engineering, computing or a strongly related discipline.
Strong analytic and programming skills are preferable.
Experience in image processing and experimental data analysis are desirable.

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