We have focused our research on the pharmacological analysis of the central nervous system, with a goal of understanding brain functions using pharmaceutical agents as tools. Historically a number of effective drugs for brain diseases were found accidentally before the detailed analysis of diseases. Analyses of these drugs have led to an understanding of the actual cause of these diseases. Therefore, it makes sense to apply various pharmacological drugs to analyze brain functions. The following are our current research topics.
Pharmacology includes two aspects: 1) to analyze the biological action of drugs and 2) to search the strategies for developing treatments for diseases. We conduct our pharmacological research by taking advantage of state-of-the-art technologies and a wide range of knowledge from molecule to animal. We focus on the roles of the cerebral limbic system and cerebral cortex, in particular, the hippocampus and amygdala, which are involved in learning, memory, and emotion. Our experimental techniques cover from genetics, biochemistry, and cell biology to electrophysiology, histochemistry, and behavioral pharmacology. Recent technical advances have allowed us to investigate the neuronal network dynamics on far larger scales than hitherto. Functional multineuron calcium imaging reveals the dynamics of network activity with single cell/synapse resolution (Left Figure), through which we elucidate the structural and functional relationship that generates spatiotemporally organized spike patterns. We also address the mechanisms of learning and memory using in situ mapping learning-relevant neuronal circuits with immediate early genes with cellular and temporal resolution (Right Figure). We believe that these novel approaches open up a new avenue for our mesoscopic understandings of network function and malfunction associated with depression, stress-relevant disease, and epilepsy.