Functional Brain Imaging, New Industry Hatchery Center
In this field, we perform interdisciplinary research which spans
industrial, government and academic sectors, and that uses noninvasive brain
function imaging systems such as functional MRI equipment, near infrared measurement
devices, and event-related electro-encephalogram devices. Two major topics in
our research are brain science research, in which we explore the relationship
between the human brain and mind, and social technology research, in which knowledge
of brain science is applied to education and social welfare. In addition, we
are advancing neuroinformatic research to develop automated medical image evaluation
systems by compiling image information about brain functions into a database.
To this end, researchers from various fields of study, not only in medicine but
also those having a background in engineering, information science, psychology,
linguistics, philosophy and mathematics, are participating in these researches.
1. Brain science research
The objects in this study are the brains of healthy humans. It
is possible to evaluate the images of a brain obtained while a subject is involved
in various mental tasks such as exercise, cognition, memorization, linguistic
communication, emotional responses and thinking, by fully utilizing noninvasive
brain function imaging systems.
The final goal of this research is the clarification of the relationship
between the mind and brain. The current primary research topic is the study of
the relationships between the brain and language, emotion and attention; however,
we maintain a policy of allowing researchers to advance their studies in accordance
with their own interests.
In the study of linguistic science, this group was selected as
one of the Centers of Excellence (COE) in the 21st century which is supported
by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, as a “Strategic
Research and Education Center for an Integrated Approach to Language, Brain and
Cognition.” We have been disseminating much information on unique research
accomplishments such as 1) the identification of the region of the brain in which
syntax structures are analyzed, 2) the identification of the region of the brain
in which the functions for handling second and third foreign languages are located,
and 3) the characterization of changes in brain functions during the acquisition
of foreign language skills.
Furthermore, we have achieved a world first in clarifying the
temporo-spatial pattern in information processing in the brain by simultaneously
obtaining functional MRI, electroencephalograms and near infrared spectroscopy
and handling these image data mathematically. As a result, the possibility of
imaging the mind’s activity has been brought one step closer to realization.
In this field of research, we have made numerous accomplishments
and attracted the attention of the global scientific community. As a result of
these accomplishments, we were able to host the 8th International Conference
on Functional Mapping of the Human Brain, for the first time in the Asia/Oceania
area, in June 2002.
2. Social technology research
This is an area of study aiming to apply the knowledge obtained
in the field of brain science research. Measures to create a hopeful future by
overcoming the difficulties observed in a society with fewer children and with
an increasing number of elderly persons are proposed from the viewpoint of brain
science. On-going actual research topics include (1)educational methods to develop
healthy brain functions in children (particularly in the prefrontal area), (2)antiaging
methods to maintain and improve brain functions in adults and elderly persons,
(3)rehabilitation methods for cognition to improve the brain functions of patients
with dementia and people with cognitive development disabilities, and (4)methods
of learning foreign languages based on scientific findings. To promote these
studies, we have established a cooperative research network with researchers
working in the fields of education, neuroscience and cognitive psychology at
Nagoya University, Kyoto Education University, Nippon University, Keio University,
Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Ritsumeikan University and the National
Center for Neurology and Psychiatry Japan. This research is attracting much attention
among the general public, and is being carried out with support from the Japanese
government (Japanese Science and Technology Agency) as a joint research project
with industrial partners and local governments (city of Sendai and Gifu prefecture).
Many countries list education as an important element of their
national policies. Research on Brain Science and Education has been carried out
globally, centering around the OECD since 2003; we currently engage in this research
at an advanced level. As part of our research activities, we hosted an International
Symposium for Learning Therapy in December 2002 and again in January 2004, and
disseminated the results of the symposium.
3. Neuroinformatic research
We are developing systems and software to enable the re-analysis
of images of brain morphology obtained by MRI and images of brain functions obtained
by functional MRI. Our team participates as Japan’s representative in the
preparation of a global database (Mega-ICBM) in corporation with the NIH (USA),
UCLA (USA) and Duesseldorf University (Germany). An automatic diagnostic system
using clinical cerebral blood flow images is also being developed jointly with
the Graduate School of Engineering, Tohoku University, and the Institute of Development,
Aging and Cancer, Tohoku University.
4. Education policy
Our basic principle in this field is ‘research with passion.’ We
aim at fostering internationally recognized researchers who carry out their research
independently. Therefore, in principle, the language used in our seminars is
English; also, students in our graduate program must present their work at international
meetings. We have established a rotating training system with the 21st century
COE, “Strategic Research and Education Centers for an Integrated Approach
to Language, Brain and Cognition,” so that students and researchers can
acquire the professional knowledge from other fields which is necessary to carry
out their research (for example: linguistics, psychology, information science).
To foster researchers who can carry out their research independently,
research topics are selected in accordance with their interests. Researchers
are guided to perform a series of tasks in the following sequence; planning their
own research theme, carrying out experiments, and presenting and publishing their
results at international conferences and in overseas academic journals.