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We are learning Physiology in NIPS

Graduate school life at the National Institute For Physiological Science

Chitoku Toda in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism

I am currently doing research on metabolism regulatory mechanism at the whole body level from hypothalamus by using biochemical and molecular biological techniques. I have been interested in brains and neurons before and wished eagerly to study at the National Institute of Physiological Institute (NIPS), which is one of the nation’s leading institutes on brains. NIPS is optimal place to study about brains as it provides not only regular 2-hour lectures on Fridays, but also lectures and seminars by researchers in Japan and abroad. In fact, there are not many lectures about metabolism. But brain functions are all related to the metabolism and therefore I’m sure that the study at NIPS will be of great help in my future research. SOKENDAI has a budget for "Overseas Assignment Project" which supports students to study abroad. Using this project, I went to Harvard University in the United States for 2 months (http://www.soken.ac.jp/education/2-11.html). Thanks to great support from SOKENDAI including application of overseas insurance and so on, I could spend my school life with a sense of security. I have never heard such a fulfilling system in other universities, and I think that this is one of the attractions of SOKENDAI. I directly experienced many different things while I was staying at Harvard University and doing experiments at the most advanced laboratories in the world. But what I found from these experiences is that Okazaki’s three research institutes: National Institute for Physiological Sciences, National Institute for Basic Biology and Institute for Molecular Sciences, are as good as Harvard University. I think that NIPS has sufficient equipment as well as excellent researchers who can make full use of them. Okazaki is a quiet place where you can surely concentrate on your research. Besides research, you can enjoy typical Japanese scenery and interesting events every season: cherry blossoms in spring, fireworks in summer, red leaves in autumn and snow board in winter. Especially cherry blossoms and fireworks are the largest-scale events that I have ever seen. Okazaki is the place where famous Japanese samurai named Ieyasu Tokugawa was born and I enjoy watching the parade of Ieyasu in spring and also seeing exhibition of Tokugawa family. I recommend that you have graduate school life at the National Institute For Physiological Sciences. I recommend that you have graduate school life at the National Institute For Physiological Sciences.
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That makes NIPS best

Masaharu Yasuda in the Division of Sensory and Cognitive Information

 I am currently doing research on the function in the brain region which regulates color information by using extracellular recording. We use Japanese monkeys for our experiments. Before I came to NIPS, I had been researching about protozoa such as paramecium. Protozoa is very attractive subject of research as it can accomplish all sorts of things in life with just one cell. However, simple but essential questions continued to grow in mind. Those questions were “Why living things can see? and “What is the perception of seeing in the first place?” and they drove me to apply NIPS. I thought that NIPS might feel my enthusiasm and accepted me readily, which made me change the subject of my research from the paramecium to the monkey. Right after joining NIPS, there were many things I could not understand as a matter of course. I spent many days realizing my imperfection surrounded by many professional researchers (these days still continue now.) However, I feel like I am making progress by little and little supported and trained by rich discussions held in the laboratory, and I’m pleased with that. Even though, I sometimes felt tired at doing research and was poorly-motivated. In cases like this, I was encouraged several times by seminars held in NIPS. These seminars which were held often at NIPS provided me many opportunities to hear the speech of the first-class researchers in various fields in Japan and abroad in this Okazaki city. After attending these seminars, I was excited and I could feel that my discouragement that I had felt before was gone. Instead of that, I felt full of my energy for tomorrow. The seminar which made me more encouraging than those held at NIPS was a joint student seminar held last year for the first time. In this seminar, students and researchers in NIPS, NIBB (National Institute For Basic Biology) and NIG (National Institute of Genetics) discussed their researches passionately over drinks. I was deeply impressed with this discussion and poster presentation that had been lasted until midnight (although I was fighting with sleepiness by drinks). I appreciate this environment which gave me the opportunity to exchange with students and researchers in other fields.

In the broad field of Life Sciences, I can always be aware of the status of my research. You may have image of NIPS where researchers confined themselves to making their own researches, but surprisingly, researches here are quite busy attending seminars, full-scale English lessons, reading circles with students in other laboratories and training courses. Besides academic events, there are recreational events such as fireworks festival, softball game match and cherry-blossom viewing. However, even in these bustling lives, researchers continue to make high-quality research without resting their hands for experiments. That makes NIPS best.

And that’s why I am struggling.
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Challenging for a new research

Mari Sasaki in the 2nd year of the 2nd semester of the doctoral program
in the Division of Developmental Neurophysiology

 I am currently doing research by using molecular biological, cellular biological and electrophysiological techniques. While SOKENDAI began to accept master’s students from last year, it had been accepted only Ph.D. students before that. Therefore, most of the students started new fields of studies from doctor’s programs. For students who would like to challenge new fields of studies, NIPS provides very good environment in terms of accepting students in different fields without setting up a high barrier. Actually, I had never experienced electrophysiological experiment before I came to NIPS. As there are many staffs to support each student, every student is able to ask and learn many specialized issues from researchers in these special fields. Students also expand the wave of exchange with students in other laboratories and institutes through seminars and drinking parties. I really enjoy having times with other students in the same spirits and motivation.

NIPS holds seminars and workshops very often, which is one of other characteristics of NIPS. I think this is a great advantage and appealing point of NIPS where you can broaden your knowledge by positively participating seminars without investing your time and money for transport. In addition to this, students are able to take part in meetings of reading circles with students in other laboratories. These exchanges with students in other laboratories can be achieved due to the special environment of NIPS in which research fields are associated with those of different laboratories to some degree. I am quite certain that this characteristic can not be found in other universities.

As for Okazaki city, house rent is lower than those in other regions such as Kansai or areas around Tokyo, and what is more, you can get scholarships in many instances, which makes you live and study here easily. As you will see in my impression, NIPS offers the outstanding environment in which graduate students can concentrate on their researches.
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Eyes can say as much as the mouth

Tomoya Sakatani in the research project of higher brain function
in the Integrative Physiological Institute

 Scientists use various animals for experiments in their researches on brains. However, animals can not speak and therefore it is impossible to ask how they feel. But is it really impossible to study the mind by using experimental animals?

"Bouncing eyes (be excited)", "Casting down eyes", "Changing of colors of eyes (with an angry look)", "Be awakened (be disillusioned)" are all expressing some sort of emotions or psychological states.

In fact, eye movement clearly reflects psychological state. There are many cases reported where pathological conditions of the brain are manifested by abnormal eye movements. Therefore, we are able to analyze the internal state of brain such as attention or willingness scientifically by measuring the trace of eye movement, reaction latency and accuracy quantitatively.

In Isa laboratory that I belong to, psychobehavioral experiment of monkeys and sliced-brain experiment of rats are conducted by using mainly electrophysiological technique. Using neural circuits which regulate eye movement as a stepping-stone, we are trying to clarify the neural mechanism and molecular basis which control and modify the circuits depending on the state of mind.

As a member of the laboratory, I am currently developing a behavioral experimental system in which eve movement is examined as an index by using a new mouse that can be genetically manipulated at a body level. So far I have developed a measurement system which allows to measure the eve movement of the mouse by using a high-speed camera. I am now advancing research on the function of neural circuit associated with eye movement by employing integrative techniques of behavioral genetics and electrophysiology. I hope that this experimental system will become the basis to understand how genes impact on the mind or to know neural mechanism that regulates the mind. Furthermore I expect that the system will be a key to developing a screening system for a new drug which will contribute to treat mental illness.

In order to make research on brains, we need to have wide knowledge more than we gain through studies of departments. In that regard, NIPS consists of faculties and technical officers in various fields and therefore students are able to receive wide range of advices from them. In addition, lectures for graduate students, workshops, seminars and international symposium are held very often in NIPS. This helps students to know the latest research trend from leading researchers in Japan and abroad. I personally participate in a reading circle with graduate and postgraduate students in NIPS and other institutes including the National Institute for Basic Biology. If you are interested in the reading circle, you are very welcome to join us.

In this spring, co-op store which had been long-planned was finally established in NIPS. Thanks to this, we are able to obtain specialized books easily. Cafeteria in NIPS also offers excellent menu every day. Please have a try it.

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Research and lifestyle in Okazaki

Laxmi Kumar Parajuli in the Division of Cerebral Structure

 Scientists use various animals for experiments in their researches on brains. However, animals can not speak and therefore it is impossible to ask how they feel. But is it really impossible to study the mind by using experimental animals?

"Bouncing eyes (be excited)", "Casting down eyes", "Changing of colors of eyes (with an angry look)", "Be awakened (be disillusioned)" are all expressing some sort of emotions or psychological states.

In fact, eye movement clearly reflects psychological state. There are many cases reported where pathological conditions of the brain are manifested by abnormal eye movements. Therefore, we are able to analyze the internal state of brain such as attention or willingness scientifically by measuring the trace of eye movement, reaction latency and accuracy quantitatively.

In Isa laboratory that I belong to, psychobehavioral experiment of monkeys and sliced-brain experiment of rats are conducted by using mainly electrophysiological technique. Using neural circuits which regulate eye movement as a stepping-stone, we are trying to clarify the neural mechanism and molecular basis which control and modify the circuits depending on the state of mind.

As a member of the laboratory, I am currently developing a behavioral experimental system in which eve movement is examined as an index by using a new mouse that can be genetically manipulated at a body level. So far I have developed a measurement system which allows to measure the eve movement of the mouse by using a high-speed camera. I am now advancing research on the function of neural circuit associated with eye movement by employing integrative techniques of behavioral genetics and electrophysiology. I hope that this experimental system will become the basis to understand how genes impact on the mind or to know neural mechanism that regulates the mind. Furthermore I expect that the system will be a key to developing a screening system for a new drug which will contribute to treat mental illness.

In order to make research on brains, we need to have wide knowledge more than we gain through studies of departments. In that regard, NIPS consists of faculties and technical officers in various fields and therefore students are able to receive wide range of advices from them. In addition, lectures for graduate students, workshops, seminars and international symposium are held very often in NIPS. This helps students to know the latest research trend from leading researchers in Japan and abroad. I personally participate in a reading circle with graduate and postgraduate students in NIPS and other institutes including the National Institute for Basic Biology. If you are interested in the reading circle, you are very welcome to join us.

In this spring, co-op store which had been long-planned was finally established in NIPS. Thanks to this, we are able to obtain specialized books easily. Cafeteria in NIPS also offers excellent menu every day. Please have a try it.

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Research in NIPS-Okazaki

Batu Keceli MD. PhD. in the Division of Biophysics and Neurobiology

 My interest in ion channels started in Turkey when I began to study the excitability of crayfish stretch receptor neurons after years of practicing medicine. Learning more about the essence of ion channels in living organisms ignited me to learn more about molecular and biophysical aspects. Actually that was the time when I first realized that Japan was the country where cloning era for the ion channels had started. When I was accepted as a PhD course student in Kubo laboratory, I was aware that I made a challenging decision. I was with the best ion channel researchers in the world. Not only the technical facilities but also the level of science and expectations were highest. Throughout my PhD study, I was given the chance to conduct my own research independent from any influence from my supervisor other than guidance. I strongly believe that this helped a lot for my self-improvement. I was encouraged to attend international meetings in Japan and abroad, present my work and discuss with scientists from many nations in the field. I had many opportunities to meet with well-known neuroscientists and also Nobel Laureates in meetings, journal-club hours and conferences held by the institute. All were stimulating, exciting and enjoying.

My colleagues in the laboratory were always kind and helpful especially when I had to deal with the administrative works which were in Japanese.

Furthermore, living in Okazaki is fun. Okazaki is a very beautiful city in every season. With many sightseeing and historical places and beautiful cherry blossoms welcoming you every April, Okazaki is a place where you can free your mind just by wandering. Also the fireworks of Okazaki is a breathtaking event one must see.

Briefly, being a PhD student in NIPS, in Okazaki was a great experience and enjoyment for me.

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Art is I, Science is We

Wajeeha Aziz in the Division of Cerebral Structure

 For learning to take place with any kind of efficiency, students must be motivated. To be motivated, they must become interested. And they become interested when they are actively working on projects which they can relate to their values and goals in life and above all when they are trained by skillful and talented group of people. That’s what is clearly fulfilled by studying in NIPS.

I am 3rd grade PhD student in Professor Ryuichi Shigemoto’s lab. I was always enthusiastic to learn about the very essence of human body and soul, the brain. As the working of brain is all about synchrony, I was keen to understand the intricate interplay of signals with in the brain. That brings me to study the physiological mechanisms of learning and memory formation after I finished my M.D. My research theme is deciphering the molecular mechanisms of motor learning and memory. In my first 2 years of study I used behavioral and electron microscopic studies for ultrastructural analysis of changes occurring in neurons after learning and memory formation, using mouse model. Currently, using mutant mice and molecular techniques, I am studying which specific molecules are involved in the formation of long term motor memory formation and correlated structural changes. Working in my lab, I am provided a great chance to share the highly sophisticated research environment with excellent researchers. We have weekly journal club and book club to orient our knowledge to recent advances in Science. I really like the group discussions, as they really guide you towards best solutions to questions in your mind.

Simultaneously every care is taken to introduce the foreign students to rich culture of Japan. Once a month there is a Happy Hour time, when all the student s and academic staff get together to enhance social and academic exchange. Okazaki is a very calm place with natural beauty to enjoy your academic and social life.

I hope, I continue to enjoy my journey of fun filled research life in NIPS. I highly recommend this alma mater, to creative scientists.

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While I was a PhD student in SOKENDAI…

Penphimon Phongphanphanee in the Division of Behabvioral Development

 It was started when I was informed by my thesis advisor in Thailand about MEXT scholarship for PhD study in SOKENDAI which has a research institute located in Okazaki. During that time, year 2004, I had just finished Master course and was looking for the place to continue my study in the field of neurophysiology. In year 2000-2002, I had been in Chiba University a few times for doing a short research project, so I felt rather familiar with Japan than other foreign country. I immediately made a decision to apply for this scholarship. I came to Okazaki first time in the fall 2004 to do a 6-week project in Professor Isa’s laboratory. The research atmosphere and the kindness of people here was really impressed me, and activated my motivation to be here for PhD study. In February 2005, I passed the examination for the scholarship and enrollment of SOKENDAI. Then, my student life in Professor Isa’s laboratory, NIPS was started from October 2005.

At beginning, we new student had a first seminar in Hayama campus. There, I met many students; they were from either Okazaki or other campuses, and either Japanese or foreigner, but easily to become friends. After that, the University seminar also brought us together again every year. Because almost every thing had been set before, I could start my research project quite early with a new experimental system to test the local circuit connection in rodent brains. I presented some data as a poster presentation in Japanese Neuroscience Society’s meeting in later year. In 2006, I had received a fund from SOKENDAI to visit laboratory in Duke University in North Carolina for one month. Observing and trying experiments in foreign lab which investigated the similar topic was one of my great experiences. During study here, I have continuously got a chance to present my research work in several meetings and conferences that prepared me for my future career. I felt like the time flew pretty fast. Finally, three year later, my PhD course was finished at the end of September, 2008.

In Okazaki, I stayed with my husband who was a student of SOKENDAI as well. We enjoyed our life here a lot; we like traveling and joining festivals. In my opinion, Okazaki is fit for the study life because it is neither too big to be crowded nor too small to be inconvenient. We sometimes experienced some language problems, but the short Japanese language course offering by university and self-study were greatly help for daily life. Now I become a postdoctoral fellowship in Professor Isa’s laboratory to continue research projects and still enjoy my life in Okazaki.

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