Key Info

Basic Information

Portrait: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Francesca Santoro, M.Sc. © Copyright: FZJ
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Francesca Santoro, M.Sc.
Faculty / Institution:
Electrical Engineering and Information Technology
Organizational Unit:
Neuroelectronic Interfaces Teaching and Research Area
Excellent Science
Project duration:
01.01.2022 to 31.12.2026
EU contribution:
1.859.062 euros
  EU flag and ERC logo This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement No. 949478)  


Biohybrid Synapses for Interactive Neuronal Networks


BRAIN-ACT aims to develop the next generation of interactive biohybrid devices which will couple biological neuronal networks to organic artificial neurons. For the first time, neurons will interact with the device by active mechanical reshaping which will transduce in the maintenance of the electrical network connection strength (long term potentiation –LTP). This will be achieved by a) processing dynamic electroactive materials b) engineering the neuromorphic abiotic surface with biological synaptic receptors and c) intergrate an in vitro biohybrid synapses array to investigate the interplay at the interface between neuronal cells and their synaptic activity with dynamic electrically-smart materials.

BRAIN-ACT will pave the way for a new class of chip-based smart bioelectronic devices which will ‘have a shape of a neuron and act like a neuron’.

Over 10 million people are affected by neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s worldwide and show significant loss of functionalities in their daily life. Those are mainly related to faulty connections within the brain which reflects neuronal miscommunication regulated by billions of individual connections among pairs called synapses. The ability of synapses to strengthen or weaken over time, in response to increases or decreases in their activity is called synaptic plasticity and is regulated through electrical and biomechanical signals exchanged by neurons pairs. In vitro bioelectronic platforms have been devoted to monitor and stimulate those signals across neuronal network areas to characterize electrical activity and connectivity in a passive manner.

BRAIN-ACT will revolutionize the study of in vitro neuronal networks through active mechanical reshaping to establish optimal electrical signal exchange among neuronal cells. More broadly, the proposed project will define the fundamental conditions to unleash the potential of neuromorphic devices as implantable materials in to the brain.

Additional Information

The grant will be carried out at Forschungszentrum Jülich as host institution. RWTH Aachen University is an additional beneficiary.