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Finding That Connection: Watch Two Neurons in a Petri Dish Sense Each Other and Connect

In this video, Dr. Lila Landowski shares footage of two neurons connecting in a dish. Here's what Lila had to say about the footage:

You’re watching two neurons that I saw under the microscope sensing one another and connecting.

There are 86 billion neurons in the brain - how do they know how to connect to other neurons or body parts when our bodies are developing?

They use these webbed hand-like structures that you can see in this video. The finger like projections actively sense the environment around it.

When we are developing in utero, you’ll find these “growth cones,” at the tip of every growing neuron, actively searching their way between cells, trying to find the right spot to connect to. When they make their connection, they become resorbed and disappear.

I know - it’s heartbreaking that the video ends right when we get to the exciting part, but see the black wavering line in the bottom right? That’s what they look like after they’ve connected together in a Petri dish.

When people see this video they often ask, is this what happens when we learn new things? Unfortunately not. Growth cones aren’t responsible for the connections between neurons that form in learning and memory (synapses). Those connections are much smaller and appear as thousands of tiny bumps along the length of the part of a neuron called a dendrite.‬

This is a video I took of a neuron in a culture dish that I was just about to toss out. I looked at it under the microscope and saw that something interesting was about to happen, so set up a recording. This video has been sped up - it’s the growth that occurred over the space of 20 minutes.

Credit:  Dr Lila Landowski -

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