Grand Design of the Brain

How does the brain achieve higher-order functions such as cognition, thought, memory, and emotion? How does the disruption of the neuronal network cause neurological and psychiatric disorders? With the slogan “No structure, no function,” we are challenging these questions from a neuroanatomical standpoint.

In understanding the principle of how the brain works, it is essential to unravel its structural basis, the neuronal network. This is because there is no function without structure – form and function are inseparable (形能不離).

We have analyzed the neuronal circuits of the central nervous system by morphological techniques with high spatial resolution. We have revealed that each neuron has a specific axonal projection and form specific synaptic connections to build neuronal networks rather than random connections. We are investigating neuronal circuits by focusing on the concept of “specificity,” which applies not only to the brain but also to all life phenomena. Neuronal circuit analysis using morphological methods, however, requires a lot of efforts and time. We are also engaged in the development of innovative bio-imaging tools to accelerate morphological analysis.

Based on the findings obtained from the morphological analysis, we are conducting cross-disciplinary research with collaborators in molecular biology, biochemistry, electrophysiology, behavioral science, and theoretical neuroscience, to elucidate the operating principles of the brain that realizes higher-order functions.

Research Topics

● Neuronal Circuit Analysis of the Central Nervous System
 Specific connections between neocortical inhibitory neurons
 Projections of neostriatal neurons
 Local circuits in the hippocampus
 Reciprocal connections between the neocortex and thalamus
 Projections of neuromodulatory neurons

Morphological Analysis of Mouse Disease Models
 Mouse models for neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease)
 Chronic psychological stress models

Development of innovative technologies for morphological analysis
 Virus vectors (e.g. AAV, Sindbis virus, Adenovirus, and Lentivirus)
 Development of new reporter proteins
 Tissue-clearing technique
 Correlative light and electron microscopy
 Fluorescence signal amplification technique