Welcome to the switchBoard official Blog!

SwitchBoard is an In Innovative Training Network (ITN) funded by the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme under the Marie Curie Actions. The duration of the project is 48 months, starting on November 01, 2015.

The switchBoard consortium brings together eleven beneficiaries from eight different countries, combining the expertise of seven academic partners with excellent research and teaching records, one non-profit research organisation, and three fully integrated private sector partners. This European Training Network (ETN) is supported by six Partner Organisations as well as a management team experienced in multi-site training activities and counselled by a scientifically accomplished advisory board.

Taken together, the switchBoard training network provides an international, interdisciplinary platform to educate young scientists at the interface of neurobiology, information processing and neurotechnology.

Sunday, 23 April 2017



In mammals, neural axons (nerves) fail to regenerate after injury. Therefore, you can get paralyzed after bone marrow damage and you can lose your eyesight if the optic nerve suffers a lesion. These are known facts, however, scientists all over the world dedicate their lives to break these rules. Yes the topic is once again breaking the law...and it isn’t just the favourite topic of mine, this is how science reaches new frontiers. We don’t just admit facts and get along with them. For example if doctors say chickenpox is an incurable disease, scientists say ’challenge accepted’, and show the world that in fact, chickenpox is curable.

A research group from the University of California, under the leadership of Andrew D. Huberman, managed to induce optic nerve fibers to grow back to their specific brain regions and therefore to restore some aspects of visual acuity after optic nerve injury in mice. But how was all this possible, if we know, nerves cannot regenerate? Well indeed, the adult central nervous system contains some factors that are unfavorable for axon regrowth, but fortunately, these factors are already identified, which means we can get rid of them.

After optic nerve crush, the axons of retinal ganglion cells fail to grow back beyond the lesion site, eventually resulting in the death of ganglion cells, meaning blindness is irreversible for ever. Huberman and his research group discovered, that downregulation of inhibitors of axon growth, increased activity of intrinsic cell growth-promoting factors and visual stimulation of retinal ganglion cells promote axonal regrowth beyond the lesion site and all the way back to the appropriate brain regions, never missing the correct target. Furthermore, these regenerated axons managed to establish new connections with the appropriate neurons at the target site, meaning the visual pathway was functional again.

These findings were then supported by behavioral tests in which mice showed some restored visual functions (not all of them got restored, for example mice could definitely detect moving objects, however they could not percieve depth) and by specific molecular markers which allowed researchers to trace the regrown axons and verify their target locations.

In summary, with proper stimulation, adult nerves can be induced for long-distance, target specific regrowth and formation of new connections with the appropriate neurons at the taget site thus promoting the restoration of visual function.

By Antonia Stefanov

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