Synchronization of neurons during regeneration in Hydra

Neuronal ensembles are groups of neurons that exhibit persistent synchronization and respond specifically to stimuli.  Ensembles are thought to be foundational to the nervous system, performing basic information processing and modularly linking to form circuits. Thus, understanding how ensembles synchronize is critical to uncovering design principals of the nervous system. However, the precise biophysical rules that guide ensemble formation are unknown.

We are investigating neuronal synchronization using the model animal Hydra Vulgaris, aCnidarian possessing a sparse nerve net comprising a few hundred neurons. Hydra has a remarkable capacity to recover from damage, even fully reassembling when disassociated into individual cells. This disassembly also dismantles the nerve net which then regenerates over several days. We are using fluorescent reporters and advanced microscopy techniques to track the activity and coupling of every neuron in the nervous system throughout regeneration. By watching the entire nerve net develop from isolated cells, we will uncover the biophysical mechanisms of ensemble synchronization.