Neural Engineering

Neural EngineeringIn neural engineering we aim to characterise, repair and interface with cells and tissues in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Neurons and their networks are the protagonists of information processing in the nervous system and therefore receive the majority of academic interest. We employ microfabrication processes and biological techniques, to construct environments that can host and monitor growing populations of neurons. We then interrogate these cultured neuronal networks, in order to understand how different aspects of human cognition and motion emerge from functional units.


Neural EngineeringOur neuroengineering research combines some of the newest technologies and approaches in biocompatible materials (e.g. inert scaffolds and hydrogels), stem cell biology, functional imaging and electrophysiological techniques to create systems that are of use in early stage drug development and the study of human physiology in vitro. We investigate how distinct neuronal identities emerge from stem cells and how neurons form networks and process information. Networks of entwined neurons and astrocytes are grown on engineered environments, with embedded electrodes that record neuronal activity. A particular feature of our work is our emphasis on the replacement of animal tissues and products in such studies which is consistent with the aims of the 3Rs to 'refine, reduce and replace the use of animals in research'.


Neural EngineeringIn neuroprosthetics we fabricate devices to interface with the peripheral and central nervous systems, in order to restore functionality that has been lost due to accidents or disease. This is accomplished by recording and stimulating bundles of nerves. As an example, we illustrate here a schematic of a closed-loop neuroprosthetic system for the restoration of bladder control. Nerve rootlets carrying information from the bladder are inserted in micro-channels with embedded electrodes (gold traces in bottom figure). The electrodes record signals from the nerves and transfer the information to a wireless transmitter, alerting the user that their bladder is full.

In this context, investigations in neural engineering aspire not only to understand the healthy human brain, but also to characterise and address a variety of nervous system pathologies.

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Professor Slawomir Nasuto

+44 (0)118 378 6701

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