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Towards understanding behaviors at the molecular level
Behaviors of animals are generated by the dynamic actions of elaborate neural circuits that are constructed during the course of finely tuned development. Research of neural functions have advanced greatly in recent years, but how many of the behaviors of whole animals are understood at the molecular level?
There are only few cases in which the answer to the question "what molecules in which neurons cause the particular behavior, or behavioral change, in question" have been clearly obtained. To answer these questions by up-to-date approaches, an experimental system that allows analyses throughout the molecular, cellular and organismal levels.
For this purpose, we use the nematode C. elegans, which is a well-established model animal. Because this organism has many characteristics which is suitable for understanding of behaviors at the molecular level, such as the complete knowledge of all the connectivity between neurons, excellent reseach results are constantly reported worldwide. We conduct our research aiming at elucidating the mechanism of various phenmmena, such as the chemotaxis behavior, underlying sensory processing mechanisms, generation of movements, mechanisms for learning-dependent behavioral changes and how commnication between individuals affect behaviors.
In addition, it will be plausible to comprehend the nervous system systematically because of the small number of neurons and advanced genomics and informatics in this organism. We observe the activity of all neurons by a cutting edge microscopy techniques to quantify the dynamics of the nervous system and will try to reconstruct it by simulation and tackle the challenge of generating a vertual system in the computer that generates behaviors of an animal.
Based on the understanding of the nervous system obtained by the study in C. elegans, we also conduct studies using mice to approach the higher-order brain functions. By utilizing combination of C. elegans, mice and computer, we aim at solving the mysteries of the brain.