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Breaking the Wall to Biohybrid Synapses

Falling Walls Foundation | Francesca Santoro

How electronics can be used to mimic the biology in our brain

The human brain is made up of anything between 80 and 100 billion neurons. How exactly these basic working units communicate with each other and transmit information through electrical impulses at the synapses, is a crucial matter of research. Finding out how to control specific neurons may pave the way to a better understanding of the brain and lead to novel treatments for various conditions. Francesca Santoro is Head of the Tissue Electronics Lab at Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Naples. An award-winning young scientist, Francesca is trying to find out how electronic microchip-based devices are coupled to biological tissues. She and her team developed a biohybrid synapse through the coupling of an artificial neuron and biological neuronal cells that spontaneously release the neurotransmitter dopamine. The electrical properties of the neuromorphic devices allow for the effective realization of memory states and allows for emulation and interaction with cells. At Falling Walls, Francesca will talk about how to make electronics mimic biology and how this can be further exploited for implantable neuroprosthetics.


Francesca Santoro is the Breakthrough of the Year 2021 in the Engineering and Technology category.

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Francesca Santoro

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia

Francesca Santoro is an Electrical Engineering, head of the ‘Tissue Electronics’ lab at Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia–IIT in Italy, where electronic microchip-based devices are coupled to biological tissues. In 2020 she has been awarded the prestigious ERC Starting Grant. Since 2019, she is part of the core team of BRYLA a startup project of IIT. In 2018 she has been awarded the MIT Technology Review Under 35 Innovator ITALIA and EUROPE. Dr. Santoro has authored over 40 peer-reviewed papers in high-impact scientific journals, has been invited to over 30 international scientific conferences.

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About the Venue
Radialsystem Berlin
Holzmarktstraße 33
Berlin, 10243 Germany
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