Short-term memory in networks of dissociated cortical neurons.
Short-term memory refers to the ability to store small amounts of stimulus-specific information for a short period of time. It is supported by both fading and hidden memory processes. Fading memory relies on recurrent activity patterns in a neuronal network, whereas hidden memory is encoded using synaptic mechanisms, such as facilitation, which persist even when neurons fall silent. We have used a novel computational and optogenetic approach to investigate whether these same memory processes hypothesized to support pattern recognition and short-term memory in vivo, exist in vitro. Electrophysiological activity was recorded from primary cultures of dissociated rat cortical neurons plated on multielectrode arrays. Cultures were transfected with ChannelRhodopsin-2 and optically stimulated using random dot stimuli. The pattern of neuronal activity resulting from this stimulation was analyzed using classification algorithms that enabled the identification of stimulus-specific memories. Fading memories for different stimuli, encoded in ongoing neural activity, persisted and could be distinguished from each other for as long as 1 s after stimulation was terminated. Hidden memories were detected by altered responses of neurons to additional stimulation, and this effect persisted longer than 1 s. Interestingly, network bursts seem to eliminate hidden memories. These results are similar to those that have been reported from similar experiments in vivo and demonstrate that mechanisms of information processing and short-term memory can be studied using cultured neuronal networks, thereby setting the stage for therapeutic applications using this platform.
Dranias, MR; Ju, H; Rajaram, E; VanDongen, AMJ
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