Doctoral Program

Developmental Neurobiology

There are two research groups in the Developmental Neurobiology

Shiga Lab

We are examining the mechanisms underlying formation of neural connections.

Sleep Science Lab

We address questions related to sleep in coordination with the MEXT World Premier International Research Center (WPI) – International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine (IIIS).


Brain Science

Shiga Lab

Neural networks constitute the structural basis for neural functions, including learning and memory. We are examining the mechanisms underlying the formation of neural connections.

In particular, we are focusing on (1) monoamines (serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine) and neuropeptides in the neural development of the cerebral cortex, hippocampus and cerebellum; (2) the Runt-domain transcription factors Runx1 and Runx3, which regulate the development of several neuronal subtypes in the peripheral nervous system; and (3) the effects of environmental factors on serotonergic systems.

Research Topics

  • Formation of neural networks
  • Biological basis of neural developmental disorders

Brain Science

Sleep Science Lab

Questions related to sleep, such as “why so we sleep?” “why do we dream?” “where and how is sleep regulated?” and “what are sleepiness and consciousness?” are fundamental questions in brain research.

We address sleep-related questions in coordination with the MEXT World Premier International Research Center (WPI) – International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine (IIIS).

  • Hayashi Group
    Fig. 1; http://hayashi.wpi-iiis.tsukuba.ac.jp/English/index.html
    We are interested in why sleep is essential and how it emerged during evolution, as well as the function of REM sleep, a state unique to mammals and birds. We apply genetic approaches in mice and C. elegans to address these issues.
  • Lazarus Group
    Fig. 2; http://www.wpiiiislazaruslab.org
    The WPI-IIIS Lazarus laboratory discovered that caffeine causes wakefulness by inhibiting the activity of adenosine, one of the most potent sleep-promoting neuromodulators, at adenosine A2A receptors (A2ARs) in the nucleus accumbens (Fig. 2). A2ARs in the nucleus accumbens are expected to become new drug targets for the treatment of sleep disorders.
  • Sakaguchi Group
    Fig. 3; http://sakurai-sakaguchi.wpi-iiis.tsukuba.ac.jp/
    Our group strives to realize regenerative medicine for the central nervous system. For this purpose, it is crucial to learn how neurons born in adults are integrated into existing brain circuits. We have obtained evidence that these neurons are incorporated into memory circuits after new learning. Furthermore, we obtained preliminary results suggesting that sleep plays a crucial role in the process of incorporation. Currently, we are trying to show a clear correlation between sleep and the incorporation of adult-born neurons into memory circuits using cutting-edge techniques such as optogenetics. Our group consists of a diverse, international, and hard-working group of individuals who enjoy making scientific discoveries. Please also visit our lab website for details. I welcome self-motivated students to visit the lab anytime.

Research Topics

  • Sleep manipulation and its effects in transgenic mice/nematodes (Hayashi group)
  • Evo-devo analyses of genes and cells that control sleep (Hayashi group)
  • The latest technologies such as optogenetics and deep-brain imaging allow us to investigate sleep homeodynamics of the mesolimbic system, a novel brain circuit regulating sleep and arousal (Lazarus group)
  • Brain regeneration and sleep (Sakaguchi group)