The Scope of the Brain and Neuroscience Field
The brain and neuroscience field is a life science highly anticipated to show rapid advancements within the 21st century. The maintenance of good brain health is expected to improve the quality of life (QOL) within the current aging population. In addition, innovative information and communications technologies (ICT) can be created by applying the same information processing mechanisms as discovered in the brain. Therefore, the field has had high expectation from both society and industry.
Healthy Brain, Healthy Mind
The brain, responsible for controlling our thoughts and actions, is a system necessary for any person to live as a human being. Throughout the various stages of life, however, people can be confronted with several impairments of brain health. Developmental disorders of brain can cause autism spectrum disorder and has also been linked to an increased risk of schizophrenia. Furthermore, in today’s stressful society, no one is immune to the risk of depression and other stress disorders. With the escalation of aging problem, our society is further burdened with the compounding issues associated with dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. Impairments of the health of brain and mind are directly linked to the loss of individual’s QOL and thus a significant national health issue. In turn, such health issues are also linked to critical social issues stemming from the burdens placed on patient families and the financial losses…
Information Processing in the Brain
Brain has also been notably compared to a high-level analog computer with high-speed massive parallel processing. Whilst small in size and energy saving (with the power consumption of a mere 10-30W), the brain can process information equivalent to that of the supercomputer ‘K’ (9.9 million W). Technological development is currently underway utilizing brain-inspired computers and brain-machine interfaces (BMI). Despite such advancements, the cognitive systems and computational algorithms of the brain have yet to be completely elucidated.
Goals of the Brain Interdisciplinary Research Division
In order to unravel the complex details of the brain that controls human thought and action, and thus apply this knowledge to emergent development, multi-scaled, multimodal and multidimensional research approaches are required. Informatics that allows such integration becomes essential, and thus the focus and cooperation between the various interdisciplinary fields is also vital. In our University, multimodal and multidimensional research is being advanced within a wide range of fields spanning the natural science, engineering, pharmaceutical and medical sciences. The Brain Interdisciplinary Research Division (BIRD) is creating a research and development (R & D) infrastructure allowing for effective collaboration between researchers belonging to the various disciplines distributed throughout the University (e.g. experimental, information, system and developmental courses). By capitalizing the synergism in this collaborative environment, we aim to create some revolutionary results – filled with the creativity afforded by multidisciplinary integration – regarding the brain, neural information or neural system from Tokyo University of Science.
To confront the challenges ahead, the following three interdisciplinary joint research groups will be established:
(1) Brain Health and Disorders Group
With a focus on cognition, this group aims to elucidate the mechanisms of brain health and disorders (e.g. depression with pessimistic cognitive characteristics; senile dementia that reduces cognitive and memory function; social cognition and communication difficulties caused by autism) and develop therapeutic and diagnostic drug seeds. This will be achieved through multidimensional research studies all aspects from the molecular and neural circuitry to model animals. [Member] Furuichi, Nishiyama (Sci. Tech.), Oka (Pharma. Sci.), Nakamura (Res. Inst. Biomed. Sci.), Segi-Nishida (Ind. Sci. Tech.), Hashimoto (Fukushima Med. Univ.).
(2) Brain Information and Systems Group
This group aims to elucidate, model and theorize the brain information processing systems with a focus on human visual perception. The group aims to achieve these goals through multidisciplinary studies including brain function imaging, cognitive psychological experiments and brain algorithms. [Member] Araki, Urakawa (Sci. I), Ikeguchi (Eng.), Nishiyama (Sci. Tech.), Nakamura (Res. Inst. Biomed. Sci.), Kimura (Kochi Univ. Tech.).
(3) Brain Measurement and Related Technology Development Group
This group aims to develop measurement technologies and assist devices through multidisciplinary study of both the analysis and evaluation of brain dysfunction. The group studies personality traits observed in developmental disorders and other impairments by analyzing gaze behavior and physiological indices. [Member] Takemura, Ichikawa, Nishiyama, Furuichi (Sci. Tech.), Aikawa (Ind. Sci. Tech.),
Future Development Goals
Using the emergent research infrastructure created by multidisciplinary integration, we aim to establish an R & D base for brain health, brain measurement, modeling, and for the creation of new devices with designs inspired by the brain function.
Healthy brain function is essential for a richness of mind and a better quality of life. In our modern society of high stress and aging communities, the preservation of a healthy brain is becoming evermore important. Furthermore, the brain is a living energy-saving device that can massively parallel processes, learn, store and retrieve a myriad of information by itself. Therefore, we can expect creation of future technologies and devices inspired by the study of the brain.