Exploration of Hypothetical Astrocyte Functions – Semester Project

Alongside neurons, mammalian brains also contain glial cells in comparable quantities. Glial cells in the past have been mostly neglected by computational neuroscience, but recently a specific type of glial cells called astrocyte has gained increasing attention regarding cognitive functions. Classically, astrocytes have mainly been attributed auxiliary functions in the brain, such as mechanical support, homeostasis, and management of the blood-brain barrier. As recent literature suggests that astrocytes may take an active part in neuronal computation, experimental efforts are underway exploring the exact nature of neuronal-astrocytic interactions, for example underlying memory. In this project we explore the potential effect of neuronal-astrocytic coupling computationally. The student will construct a simple top-down hypothetical neuronal-astrocytic model, and investigate the effect of different neuronal-astrocytic coupling functions on the dynamics and memory-capacity of the model. The student will also design a metric to categorize the effective observed dynamics and thus report the set of astrocytic models, for which the dynamics is distinguishable from purely neuronal models.

Research Group:
Laboratory of Neural Circuit Dynamics (Prof. Fritjof Helmchen) at the Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich (Irchel Campus, building 55).


Experience in programming (Python/Matlab), statistics and/or machine learning.


Philipp Bethge (bethge@hifo.uzh.ch)

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