Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date



The nervous system is a complex organ system that coordinates all of the actions of an animal. The transmission of signals between different body parts by this organ system allows the body to function as a whole and interact with the external environment. It is clear then that the nervous system is integral to the function and survival of those organisms in which it has developed; and yet much is lacking in our understanding of the system’s key constituents: neuronal cells or, neurons. In satisfaction of the Honors Thesis, this research investigates how certain conditions of the extracellular environment affect neuron growth. Growth substrates were developed to present two such conditions – substrate stiffness and adhesive ligand coating density – to cultured neurons at quantities reflecting in vivo values that are hypothesized to result in optimal growth. Once working culture methods were established for the growth of neurons on these substrates, imaging and data collection techniques were developed to characterize the growth of these cells and produce a qualitative and quantitative understanding of how neuron growth is influenced by the environmental conditions of interest. While specialized growth substrates were successfully developed and methods of data collection were validated with some preliminary data confirming the basic hypothesis, further refinement of culturing techniques will be required to grow sufficient densities of neurons to provide a more complete picture of the interplay of influence between the substrate properties of stiffness and adhesivity.