Emergence of Small-World Anatomical Networks in Self-Organizing Clustered Neuronal Cultures.
In vitro primary cultures of dissociated invertebrate neurons from locust ganglia are used to experimentally investigate the morphological evolution of assemblies of living neurons, as they self-organize from collections of separated cells into elaborated, clustered, networks. At all the different stages of the culture's development, identification of neurons' and neurites' location by means of a dedicated software allows to ultimately extract an adjacency matrix from each image of the culture. In turn, a systematic statistical analysis of a group of topological observables grants us the possibility of quantifying and tracking the progression of the main network's characteristics during the self-organization process of the culture. Our results point to the existence of a particular state corresponding to a small-world network configuration, in which several relevant graph's micro- and meso-scale properties emerge. Finally, we identify the main physical processes ruling the culture's morphological transformations, and embed them into a simplified growth model qualitatively reproducing the overall set of experimental observations.