The RIKEN-MIT Center

Alternative excitatory circuits in the hippocampal-entorhinal network. (Bottom) Triple immunofluorescence staining of a hippocampal sagital section in a de-repressed CA3-GFP mouse with antibodies for GFP (green), DAP1 (blue) and netrin-G1 (red).

In April 2008, MIT joined with RIKEN, located in Saitama, Japan, to create the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics (CNCG) within MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. The RIKEN Brain Science Institute (RIKEN BSI) and the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT have created a strong, long-term mutually beneficial relationship for collaborative research, building on the resources and strengths of both institutes in the highly dynamic field of brain science. The program profits from the exchange of research staff between RIKEN and MIT. The RIKEN-MIT CNCG is lead by Nobel laureate Professor Susumu Tonegawa.

 

The objective of this research is to decipher molecular, cellular, circuits, and brain system mechanisms underlying learning and memory and decision-making by combining genetic techinques including transgenics, knockouts optogenetics, and virus vector-mediated genetic manipulations with a variety of analytical methods.

For this purpose, CNCG scientists use a highly interdisciplinary approach that includes molecular and cellular biology, immunohistology, confocal and multi-photon microscopy, in vitro and in vivo electrophysiology and behavioral paradigms.

As research targets, CNCG focuses on the function of the hippocampus, both its intrinsic circuits and extrinsic circuits involving the neocortex, limbic system, and amygdala.  Another focus of the research is on the identification and characterization of memory engram-bearing cells in the hippocampus and amygdala.  CNCG scientists also apply the interdisciplinary approach to the neuromodulatory dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrin systems to study the neural circuit mechanisms for decision-making, attention, and control of impulsiveness.

In the coming years, the targets of CNCG’s research will extend to include extra-hippocampal neural circuits, with the aim of deciphering neural mechanisms underlying decision-making and its relationship with expectation.