At the National Institute for Physiological Sciences (NIPS), the Division of Cerebral Integration (hereinafter referred to as “our Division”) was created in 1999 in the Department of Cerebral Research (later renamed as the Department of System Neuroscience). The primary focus of our Division is experimental research on cognition, memory, thinking, behavior, emotion, and other brain functions in humans. Functional neuroimaging techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), can detect changes in local circulation and energy metabolism associated with neuronal activities. Combined with electrophysiological methods with high temporal resolution, these techniques help us understand the global dynamics of the higher brain functions. In particular, imaging of dynamic changes in functional localization and functional connectivity will help reveal the plastic potential of the brain, including neuronal growth and repair triggered by sensory loss and acquisition of new functions through learning in patients with cerebral injury.
Establishing an Integrative Cerebral Function Measurement System
Future research on higher brain plasticity will require a comprehensive measurement system that can noninvasively monitor various characteristics of the human brain function. Such a system must involve a seamless integration of electrophysiological and blood flow imaging techniques. The former includes electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography, and transcranial magnetic stimulation, whereas the latter includes fMRI and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS).
Contributing to Developmental Physiology and Social Neuroscience
Neurofunctional imaging modalities are suitable for studies of developmental physiology and social neuroscience. This application will contribute to elucidation of the normal and pathological processes involved in the development of social skills and other cognitive functions. The integrative measurement system mentioned above will be used to study brain activities at different stages of development.