The brain consists of many types of neurons which make a complex network. However, it is still unresolved how the network activities are integrated into the brain’s function, the mind. Using genetic engineering techniques we have developed new optical methods which enable one to visualize the network activities as well as to manipulate activities of individual neurons to reveal how they are integrated in the network. The neuronal network is also dynamically regulated by its environment as well as by its activity itself. We will investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating the network dynamics. We are also investigating the structure-functional relationship of optogenetic molecules.
Laboratory website: http://neuro.med.tohoku.ac.jp
We introduce optogenetic tools such as fluorescent protein sensors and channelrhodopsin into neurons and morphologically identify individual neurons and synapse terminals while developing optogenetics which optically reveal network functions. We research structure-function relationships concerning channelrhodopsin and clarify the structures which are involved in the characteristics such as membrane expression, absorption spectrum, and ion permeability, while at the same time creating new channelrhodopsins optimized to the optical stimulation of neurons.
- Understanding the mechanisms which govern synapse formation and reconstruction
- Manipulating cellular function via optogenetics
- Understanding the neural interpretation of tactile patterns
- Using light to develop BMI technologies which communicate information with the brain
Awards Granted to Graduate Students
Takuya Hikima (completed doctoral course)
2009 Physiological Society of Japan Hiroshi and Aya Irisawa Memorial Award for Excellent Papers on Research in The Journal of Physiological Sciences
Lei Wen (completed doctoral course)
2011 Tohoku University Professor Genkuro Fujino Award
Ryo Egawa (completed doctoral course)
2013 Physiological Society of Japan Promotion Award of the Northeastern Japan Physiological Science for Young Investigators
In vivo calcium imaging of cerebral cortex oscillation (2013)
Functinal MRI signal to optogenetic tactile pattern of channelrhodopsin-2 expressing rat in barrel cortex (2013)
The molecular determinants involved in ion flux regulation of a channelrhodopsin derived from Mesostigma viride（2013）
Optogenetic excitation of whisker-barrel mechanoreceptive pathway（2013）
A Student’s View
NameHidetaka Katow D2
Undergraduate University and DepartmentFaculty of Agriculture and Life Science, Hirosaki University
Research SubjectCaspase 6-dependent synapse remodeling in the developing chick ciliary ganglion
Because of the many international students and students who studied at other universities and undergraduate departments, this laboratory is stimulating, offering many opportunities to come into contact with various ways of thinking. With each student taking on cutting edge research, new discoveries are made each day. Many of the members here also enjoy events and sports, so I believe this lab is most suited to those looking for a lively graduate school experience.