Cortical-like mini-columns of neuronal cells on zinc oxide nanowire surfaces

V Onesto, M Villani, R Narducci, N Malara, A Imbrogno, Marco Allione, N Costa, N Coppedè, A Zappettini, C V Cannistraci, L Cancedda, F Amato, Enzo M. Di Fabrizio, F Gentile

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


A long-standing goal of neuroscience is a theory that explains the formation of the minicolumns in the cerebral cortex. Minicolumns are the elementary computational units of the mature neocortex. Here, we use zinc oxide nanowires with controlled topography as substrates for neural-cell growth. We observe that neuronal cells form networks where the networks characteristics exhibit a high sensitivity to the topography of the nanowires. For certain values of nanowires density and fractal dimension, neuronal networks express small world attributes, with enhanced information flows. We observe that neurons in these networks congregate in superclusters of approximately 200 neurons. We demonstrate that this number is not coincidental: the maximum number of cells in a supercluster is limited by the competition between the binding energy between cells, adhesion to the substrate, and the kinetic energy of the system. Since cortical minicolumns have similar size, similar anatomical and topological characteristics of neuronal superclusters on nanowires surfaces, we conjecture that the formation of cortical minicolumns is likewise guided by the interplay between energy minimization, information optimization and topology. For the first time, we provide a clear account of the mechanisms of formation of the minicolumns in the brain.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 11 2019

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): BAS/1/1307-01-01
Acknowledgements: We acknowledge KAUST that partially funded this study by the baseline fund BAS/1/1307-01-01.


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