Department of Systems Neurophysiology, formarly Department of Physiology #1 of the medical school, is one of the basic medicine departments and take charge of research and education in the field of neurophysiology and related neurosciences.
Our main interest lies in clarifying the structures that underlies function of the central nervous system and then understanding their function. We are focused on the part of the central nervous system that is involved in control of eye movements. The eye movement control system is located in the cerebrum, brainstem and cerebellum, has been studied in great detail and is important clinically. The cerebellum itself is another site of focus. Dysfunction of the cerebellum causes ataxia, a movement disorder associated with impaired control of movement. We use electrophysiological, morphological and cell-biological approaches.
1) Cerebellar function
Distinct regions in the cerebellum make specific connections with different areas of the brain and are involved in the control of various movements including eye movements. For example, the neuronal circuitry that connects the lateral cerebrum, pontine nuclei, cerebellar cortex (hemisphere), cerebellar nucleus (dentate nucl.), thalamus and cerebrum is important for initiation, execution and control of movements. To understand cerebellar function, it is important to understand the organization of the cerebellum into distinct anatomical regions, to characterize the specific neuronal circuitry of these regions, and to identify how the cerebellum is organized into regions and functions by way of the input and output systems. Our systematic approach to this question includes (developmental) anatomy, molecular biology, and electrophysiology. We have expertise in neuronal labeling with marker molecules and tracers, single-axonal reconstruction, three-dimensional mapping of neuronal projection patterns.
We participate in Introductory Neurophysiology, Neuroscience and Physiology Lab courses for medical students (2nd year) as well as in courses for graduate students. We mainly teach the neurophysiology sections in these courses. Our goal is for students to understand normal function of nerve cells and the nervous system and, on this ground, to understand pathological states of the nervous system in disease. For this purpose, we give clinically-oriented lectures and laboratory courses linked with morphology and pharmacology.
Lectures & Courses
Our lectures cover transport and electric potential of the cell membrane, excitation and synaptic transmission (Introductory Neurophysiology), sensory systems, motor systems, autonomic nervous systems, and higher brain function (Neuroscience), i.e. neurophysiology in general from the molecular, cellular through the organismic levels. To promote students' self-learning attitude, we sometimes employ an "active-learning" style. In the laboratory course, we promote student-teacher discussion in small groups. We have had three "elective research course" students.