Scope of the Area

Outline of Research Area

 This Research Area will include research aimed at comprehensive understanding of how brain works via elucidation of the principles of the formation and functions of neural networks, as well as the control mechanism from a novel viewpoint.

 Specifically, this Research Area includes research on the formation of neuronal networks, nuclei and layer structures that constitute the functional units of the brain; regionalization/arealization of the brain and specification of neurons; information processing by a single neuron; communication between neurons and synaptic plasticity; development and plasticity of neural network functions; the principles of information processing by complex network assemblies; and controls mechanisms. This Research Area also includes research on the role of glial cells and other non-neuronal cells as well as the mechanism of maintenance of the number of neurons. Furthermore, this Research Area includes creation of innovative platform technology that contributes to dramatic progress in the elucidation of the formation of neural networks and the principle of information processing.

"Development and Function of Neural Networks"

 Human mental activity is based on brain activity. Brain activity is based on neurons and their electrical activities. In the brain numerous neurons form networks via synapses to send and receive signals. Thus, elucidation of the mechanism of higher brain functions requires investigation of neuronal networks and information processing achieved by them. This, however, has not been easy because of structural complexity and diversity of the nervous system. The morphology of single neurons and the functions of neural networks, neurotransmitters, receptors, and ion channels are all so complex and diverse. Because of their complexity, some researchers previously took the approach of recording the activities of unidentified neurons and analyzing data from such recordings. However, research in neural networks has entered a new era because of recent advances in a variety of research technologies that enables precise analyses of neuronal activities and related Research Areas: This includes improvement in technology for measurement of electrical activities, introduction of molecular biological techniques, development of light microscopic measurement technology, and applications of live-imaging technology combined with these advances. Advances in developmental neuroscience, for example, are paving the way for an approach toward elucidating the principle of the construction of the brain as well as the principles of information processing by neuronal networks. With genetic engineering that includes introduction of modified genes, and live imaging, it is becoming possible to monitor neuronal network activity four-dimensionally at the cellular level. The development of a variety of technologies for the creation of animals with conditional gene modification is associated with steady progress in the elucidation of the relationship between the molecules required for the construction of neurons and neural networks and mental activities. Explosive advances in research on these neuronal network functions will help to elucidate the mechanisms of the brain function and open new possibilities for clarification of the pathogenesis of brain diseases and the development of appropriate therapy. In this area, I would like to promote understanding of the brain by strongly supporting research, with new viewpoints and technologies, on neuronal network formation, information processing by the network, and their control mechanisms.

 Because there is no established approach for elucidating the principles of neuronal network formation and information processing, any research theme is welcome as long as it is related to the research issues described above. Ambitious young researchers are encouraged to propose research projects on the basis of creative, ingenious methods and ideas.