Thursday, December 5, 2013, 3pm
Location: Room 1110 of the Nguyen Engineering Building

Rhonda Dzakpasu
Department of Physics
Georgetown University

The Balance of Plasticity and Stability in an In Vivo Network of Neurons


The brain is a unique complex dynamical system. Not only does its emergent properties stem from the complex interactions between its fundamental units, the neurons, but the individual neurons themselves are also complex systems. Emergent activity, detectable in the form of collective rhythmic dynamics, arises from networks of neurons and these dynamics are vital for cognitive functions such as attention, memory formation, learning, and sleep. A major challenge for the brain is to maintain a stable operating state while retaining sufficient flexibility to grow and experience plasticity in response to external stimuli. But how these two opposing constraints reconcile remains an open question. I will discuss the complexity of neurons and some results from our lab that explores how an in vitro network of neurons attempts to achieve this balance.

My talk will be tailored towards a broad audience. I will provide a thorough introduction to the topic of our research along with the general context of some of the big questions and outstanding issues in dynamical neuroscience. This will also help to motivate why a physicist would be interested in this field of study. I will finish with a discussion of how our current research fits into this wider context.