Dec 30, 2023

Synapses without tension fail to fire in an in vitro network of hippocampal neurons

Posted by in categories: chemistry, robotics/AI

Neurons in the brain communicate with each other at their synapses. It has long been understood that this communication occurs through biochemical processes. Here, we reveal that mechanical tension in neurons is essential for communication. Using in vitro rat hippocampal neurons, we find that 1) neurons become tout/tensed after forming synapses resulting in a contractile neural network, and 2) without this contractility, neurons fail to fire. To measure time evolution of network contractility in 3D (not 2D) extracellular matrix, we developed an ultrasensitive force sensor with 1 nN resolution. We employed Multi-Electrode Array and iGluSnFR, a glutamate sensor, to quantify neuronal firing at the network and at the single synapse scale, respectively. When neuron contractility is relaxed, both techniques show significantly reduced firing. Firing resumes when contractility is restored.

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