Seminar on Brain-on-a-Chip by physicist Dr. Vincent Daria


We aim to understand the formation and function of brain circuits by growing neurons on nanostructured semiconductor devices (a.k.a. Brain-on-a-chip). We artificially grow brain cells on a semiconductor wafer patterned with nanowire scaffolds. From a fundamental perspective, we aim to investigate the structural significance of nanoscale topographies for guiding neurite outgrowth. To correlate the circuit function on the neurons grown on-a-chip with that of certain areas in the brain, we need to analyze the function of single neurons and population of neurons forming circuits in living mammalian brain slices and that of an intact rodent brain. To achieve this, we use novel photonic technologies not only to visualize these neurons but also to stimulate and record neuronal activity to understand the input/output transfer function of neurons and circuits. Understanding neuronal and circuit function is in itself a grand challenge and has attracted major research thrusts worldwide. Hence, correlating the input-output transfer function of neuronal of circuits from both living brain and that of neurons grown on-a-chip can lead to new insights on how the brain functions during learning, memory and information processing.

About the Speaker

Vincent Daria earned his PhD in Applied Physics from Osaka University, Japan. From 2001 to 2004 he pursued postdoctoral work at the Risoe National Laboratory (Denmark) where their group pioneered the use of dynamic multi-beam optical tweezers for manipulating arrays of microscopic objects and cells simultaneously. From 2004, he established a research group at the University of the Philippines to work on ultrafast lasers in combination with spatial light encoding for multi-beam optical tweezers combined with non-linear optical processes. Such technique was applied to fs-laser surgery and manipulation of cells and 3D holographic micro-fabrication via photopolymerization. In 2007, he joined the physics department at the Australian National University (ANU) where they initially designed a unique microscope capable of probing living cells and neurons in the brain. In 2010, Dr. Daria moved his laboratory to the John Curtin School of Medical Research to fully engage their collaboration with neuroscientists and apply their holographic two-photon microscope for simultaneous photostimulation of synapses and multi-site Ca2+ imaging of neuronal networks in living brain tissue. The success of this venture enabled the group’s expansion where they continuously received highly competitive funding from the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council. He is currently the group leader of the Neurophotonics Laboratory at the Eccles Institute of Neuroscience at ANU. He continues to teach optics and laser courses as well as maintain collaborations with researchers from the Research School of Physics and Engineering at ANU.