Member profile details

Membership level
2012-2013 Team
Team Name
Project Title
Design Challenge
Senior Design BIOE 451/452
Studies of neuronal networks are restricted by the inability of modern equipment to differentially control and monitor the activity of individual neurons. Furthermore, analysis of network properties in these studies often takes place after in vitro experiments have already
been completed, preventing valuable feedback between analysis and experimentation. Many new insights to neuronal function could occur if these limitations were overcome. In particular, it would greatly enhance the mapping of neural circuits and the testing of these circuits’ computational abilities. An ideal tool for investigating neuronal populations would control the input to each neuron, record each neuron’s resultant electrical activity, and perform the computational analysis required to deduce important network properties. This tool will
accelerate experimental workflow by integrating these elements into a single user-friendly interface.
Design Summary
Team Illuminate will design and construct an optogenetic tool for stimulation, recording, and
modeling of in vitro neural cultures. This system will offer neuroscience researchers an off the-shelf solution for performing experiments that require parallel neural control and real-time
circuit analysis. Our design was motivated by a number of significant shortcomings in current neuroscience research, most notably:

-The reliance of wetlab experimenters on other research groups for data analysis slows
progress of neural circuit research
-Lack of automation for neural stimulation
-Lack of a comprehensive tool that can control neurons individually while monitoring/analyzing neural network properties and behavior in real-time

In order to meet the needs of wetlab neural circuit research groups, our system must function
under the following constraints:

-Users’ limited expertise in electronics and programming
-Neuron lifespan during experimentation
-Limited research budget
-Achieving single cell resolution for both imaging and recording

In collaboration with Dr. Jacob Robinson, several design objectives were identified:

-Ability to control stimulation patterns for each neuron in a population
-Accurate imaging and recording of neural activity
-Efficient and accurate computational neuron model that can be used in real-time

In order to streamline the processes of stimulation, recording, and modeling, we devised a computer-controlled, three-component system that addresses each of these components. Stimulation will be achieved by a DLP (Digital Light Processing) projector with high
enough resolution to stimulate at the single cell level. Input parameters to the DLP projector
system, such as illumination patterns, amplitude, and frequency, will be controlled using a computer. Patch-clamping equipment will be used to record and measure the resulting voltage
spikes from neurons. A user-friendly MATLAB GUI will facilitate the process of modeling
neural networks using data from the patch clamp and camera.
Team Illuminate has constructed a preliminary prototype of the system that can image and detect
the position of objects at the microscale as well as a simple program that can produce stimulation patterns. The next stages of development will be
to incorporate computational modeling and a patch-clamp system to detect neural activity. The design will initially be evaluated on the basis of how well it can stimulate and record the electrical activity of non-neural test cells (most likely Human Embryonic Kidney cells). After this first phase of validation we will move on to stimulating and recording cultures of cortical neurons. The final device will be able to accurately model and predict the output of a small neural circuit.
Last Updated: 4/30/13
BIOE, OEDK, Dr. Jacob Robinson
Sponsor Logo
  • Bioengineering
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
Faculty Advisor 1 - Name
Jacob Robinson
Faculty Advisor 2 - Name
Gary Woods
Award(s) and Recognition
4th Annual Undergraduate Elevator Pitch Competition: Research Tools and Innovation

2013 Electrical and Computer Engineering Affiliates Day: 3rd Place

2013 Brown School of Engineering Design Showcase: Best Gaming, Creative or Innovative Technology Award

Contact us

Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen
Rice University

6100 Main Street MS 390 | Houston, Texas | 77005

Phone: 713.348.OEDK


Lead Industry Partners