Message from the Project Leader

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Mechanisms underlying the functional shift of brain neural circuitry for behavioral adaptation

Kazuto Kobayashi, Group Leader
(Fukushima Medical University, Professor)

We are organizing a research grant on the Innovative Area “Mechanisms underlying the functional shift of brain neural circuit for behavioral adaptation (Adaptive circuit shift)” (H26.4-H31.3) supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan. In this project, we aim to integrate technologies for analysis and manipulation of the neural circuit and to study the mechanisms underlying the development and transition of neural circuit for the behavioral adaptation and the rearrangement of the circuit from the brain injury.

Our brain functions are based on the network in which a number of neurons are connected. The neural circuit undergoes dynamic transition during the development and learning processes. For instance, the circuitry that mediates the acquisition of operant conditioning in which animals learn the behaviors through trials and errors is different from one that mediates execution of habitual behaviors. In addition, when the injury of the brain or spinal cord impairs motor functions, the neural circuit in the brain is reorganized at a large scale during the training and rehabilitation. The “functional shift” including the transition and rearrangement of neural circuit is an important process for animals to adapt flexibly their behaviors to environmental changes and to recover the impaired functions. However, the mechanism on why and how the functional shift occurs has been poorly investigated. In this project, the research experts in different fields, such as molecular biology, electrophysiology, neural anatomy, and systems physiology, perform the collaboration and challenge to address the important issues on dynamics and mechanisms underlying the functional shift of brain neural network.

The planned members are composed of three groups including (A01) Basic technology for dynamics and control of neural circuit, (A02) Development of transition of neural circuit for behavioral adaptation, and (A03) Injury and recovery of neural circuit for behavioral adaptation. The A01 group will develop a new technology for genetic manipulation, functional imaging, and computational modeling of neural circuit activity, and the A02 group will study the mechanisms underlying the functional shift of neural circuit during the processes and switching of learning and behaviors. The A03 group will investigate the mechanisms that mediate reorganization of neural circuit for functional recovery from the brain and spinal cord injury. In addition, the selected members will join on H27.4 not only to complement the planned member research but also to enhance the progress of our research area. The activity of the integrated group contains (1) promotion of intra-area collaboration, (2) technical supports of individual research including lecture and instruction of the experiments, and (3) young investigator’s supports including the travel supports for international/domestic meetings and long-term laboratory staying.