Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript. To recreate in vitro 3D neuronal circuits will ultimately increase the relevance of results from cultured to whole-brain networks and will promote enabling technologies for neuro-engineering applications. Here we fabricate novel elastomeric scaffolds able to instruct 3D growth of living primary neurons. Such systems allow investigating the emerging activity, in terms of calcium signals, of small clusters of neurons as a function of the interplay between the 2D or 3D architectures and network dynamics. We report the ability of 3D geometry to improve functional organization and synchronization in small neuronal assemblies. We propose a mathematical modelling of network dynamics that supports such a result. Entrapping carbon nanotubes in the scaffolds remarkably boosted synaptic activity, thus allowing for the first time to exploit nanomaterial/cell inte...