Vertebrate brains are arguably the most complex systems in the natural world. The vast number of cells and their non-linear interactions pose a considerable challenge to neuroscientists. Methods and concepts from physics provide solutions in two fields:
- Physical methods push the boundaries of experimental capabilities, permitting us to stimulate and record units as large as thousands of neurons or as small as an individual molecule.
- Concepts from statistical physics can capture the collective activity phenomena observed in large neuronal networks and help identify the relations to cellular and molecular properties.
These two aspects of physics expertise are reflected in our studies of hybrid neuronal networks, combinations of living neurons with in-silico components. We render neurons light-sensitive by optogenetic methods and stimulate them with spatiotemporally structured light patterns generated by holography or custom-made stimulators that work inside culture chambers.