Decoding and Controlling Brain Information   PRESTO   Japan Science and Technology Agency  

Research Area "Decoding and Controlling Brain Information"

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This research area is set as a PRESTO project, based on a strategic policy determined by Japanese Government,
the title of which is "Creation of innovative fundamental technologies for utilizing information related to action and
judgment in the brain"

For further information, please refer to Strategic Sector

 The area "Decoding and Controlling Brain Information" is supervised by Mitsuo Kawato, Director and ATR Fellow, ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories.

Outline of Research Area

 This research area aims to create innovative technologies to exploit the brain information for motor control and decision-making. This subject covers areas of exploratory research and the development of technologies that is expected to greatly contribute to society and to connect basic neuroscience research and its newly emerging applied areas.
 The main objective is to decode and control brain information from signals recorded from the brain so that extracted information is applied to areas such as brain machine interface (BMI), neurorehabilitation, neuromarketing, neuroeconomics, neurogenomics, and neuroethics.
 From this perspective, this area includes various research approaches such as computational and experimental neurosciences, engineering, clinical medicine, biology, social sciences including economics, humanity sciences including psychology, as well as information science, which correspond with the expansion of brain science and its applied areas.

Policies for Application Collection, Screening and Research Area Management

 As humans in society, we largely depend on brain functions for such daily activities as movement, cognition, decision-making, social behavior, and consumer behavior. Combined with the introduction of non-invasive brain activity measurement techniques, molecular biological techniques, and the advancement of computational theories, brain science is now establishing applied areas that enrich various aspects of life, not only in relation to clinical medicine but also to economics, ethics, law, marketing, etc. Furthermore, such new applications also provide triggers for the revolutionary advancement of basic neuroscience. For example, the sudden rise of "neuroeconomics", a new area that fuses economics and neuroscience, plays such innovative roles as the introduction of quantitative models of individuals who may behave irrationally, based on brain science applied to conventional economics. From the perspective of neuroscience, it also creates movement toward the construction of quantitative models for neural information processing in human social and economic activities, which has been difficult to research. Furthermore, causal relationships of information processing might be scientifically and objectively proved by introducing BMI techniques into system neuroscience, by decoding brain information, and controlling it directly. Therefore, advancement in the basic research of neuroscience and advancement in such applied areas as BMI, neurorehabilitation, neuromarketing, neuroeconomics, neurogenomics, and neuroethics do not mean a unidirectional flow of information and techniques from basics to application. Rather, basic/applied areas promote mutual revolutionary advancement by their close collaborative work. Basic research is expected to be more deeply explored; applied research will more greatly contribute to society. Over many years, mutually beneficial and indispensable relations, which must be established between physics, chemistry, and their applied areas, will also be established between neuroscience and its new applied areas.
 To advance basic research and applications in the field of neurosciences in a mutually beneficial manner, research environments must be provided in which up-and-coming researchers can understand both basic and applied research areas and produce creative achievements. We will widely recruit researchers with diverse backgrounds and different senses of values from both basic or practical disciplines. Through intellectual and fruitful exchanges amang them, we expect to establish a foundation of favorable coevolution between basic and applied neurosciences. For this purpose, we will try to exclude possible biases, which are spotted toward any of three axes: i.e.,
(1) such various disciplines as computational and experimental neuroscience, engineering, clinical medicine, biology, humanities, social sciences, and information science;
(2) development of basic research and practical techniques; and
(3) such applied areas as BMI, neurorehabilitation, neuromarketing, neuroeconomics, neurogenomics, and neuroethics
(i.e., axies on disciplines, basic research/applications, and various applied fields).
   The field of "learning from the brain" in the new project of MEXT for 2008, which is called as the "Strategic promotion program for brain science research", will organize a research basis to strategically promote research and development and accelerate applications that address the needs of society. Unlike this organized MEXT research program, just mentioned above, our present research project supports innovative and exploratory personal research with main efforts in this PRESTO project and we widely selects innovative proposals both from basic and applied areas.

 Examples of research projects in target applied areas, for example, BMI and rehabilitation, are listed above but they are not limited to these examples as long as the proposals adhere to the research aims described above. Since methodologies have not yet been established in the applied areas of brain science, and the development of human resources is crucial for advancement of this area, junior researchers must propose projects that fuse basics and applications, experimental and theoretical sciences, or those based on original and creative methodologies. The research period will be either three or five years. Five-year research projects may be discontinued, depending on the results, especially the third-year interim assessment.

 High quality, exploratory, and creative research proposals will be recruited for both exploratory research as a basis for new applied areas of brain science (the scientific standard will be evaluated) and the development of innovative basic technologies directly tied to applied cases (feasibility will be evaluated).