Brain science is valuable not only for the advancement of science but also because it can greatly impact our society and economy. To meet these expectations, the Brain Science Institute (BSI) was established in 1997 as part of RIKEN, an independent research institution supported by the Japanese government. BSI has a mission to produce innovative research and technology leading to scientific discoveries of the brain. In addition, BSI aims to develop domestic and international brain researchers by creating an environment that will integrate various intellectual disciplines and from that convergence find solutions that will ultimately benefit society in the realms of medicine, engineering, business, and education. In striving toward this goal, BSI has become a leading international center for brain research with a reputation for discovery, innovation, training, and globalization of the scientific enterprise.
BSI engages in interdisciplinary and collaborative research, and integrates various disciplines including medicine, biology, physics, technology, computer science, and psychology. Our research objectives are broad in scope, ranging from understanding molecules, cells, circuits, systems, and behavior, in health and disease. However, at a conceptual level we focus on the neural circuit as the core element of brain function for bridging the atomic and microscopic levels of molecular and cellular neurobiology with the network and systems levels of cognition and computation. Investigating the brain will also require the development of new technologies and we are committed to research that addresses important questions in neuroscience with innovative methods and that creates links to other fast moving areas of science.
BSI strives to create an international culture of science. In doing so, BSI is considered to be a leading model for the internationalization of science in Japan. Scientists from all over the world converge at BSI to engage in research and then many depart to continue their careers at leading universities and research institutions around the world. Of our approximately 500 researchers and technicians, about 20% are from abroad. In addition, we have nearly 300 visiting researchers. Starting with our use of English as the official language of communication at the institute, resources for manuscript writing and editing, and the Help Desk, which offers assistance with day-to-day life beyond the laboratory, BSI is dedicated to creating an environment that not only supports but creates scientists with a global perspective.
BSI is committed to fostering not only the development of cutting-edge research, but also cutting-edge researchers. BSI provides young researchers at the graduate, postdoctoral, and faculty levels with a stimulating world-class research environment and career opportunities, positioning them at the forefront of brain science and offering training that will support them throughout their professional research careers. Alumni trained at BSI have moved on to distinguished careers in academia, industry, and government at leading universities and institutions in Japan and all over the world. Apart from its core research activities, BSI accomplishes this goal through its training programs of which the flagship is the BSI Summer Program that offers the choice of a laboratory internship, or an intensive lecture course. The Brain Science Training Program is an extended lecture course for a select group of graduate students from Japanese universities. Opportunities for professional career development also occur at the BSI Seminar Series, Brain Lunch, and Annual Retreat, along with professional networking at BSI social events.
BSI is a leader in the scientific community and actively forms collaborative research partnerships with major universities in Japan and throughout the world, such as the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics. In Japan, BSI manages a joint research project with Keio University called the FIRST Program for studying comparative cognition and also has collaborative research and graduate student training agreements with the Universities of Tokyo, and Waseda. The Consortium for the Promotion of Depression and Dementia Research has become a leader in coordinating the study of debilitating brain diseases. BSI also fulfills important coordinating and repository functions for the research community. BSI is home to the Japan node of the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF) and helps to manage Japan’s National Bioresource Project. BSI is also translating its basic research for society by teaming with leading industries. The BSI-Olympus Collaboration Center is developing next-generation microscopes while the BSI-Toyota Collaboration Center combines BSI’s expertise in computational and systems neuroscience with Toyota’s engineering prowess to explore innovative robotic technologies.
BSI provides state-of-the-art and comprehensive research resources to support the needs of BSI’s researchers. The Research Resources Center (RRC) provides essential support for BSI’s research activities. The RRC is divided into three units and provides the technical support needed to maintain and manage BSI’s facilities, equipment, and research resources. Research also requires strong administrative support and BSI has a cutting-edge institutional management. The Brain Science Promotion Division (BSPD) is BSI’s administrative office for acting as the liaison between RIKEN, BSI, the general public, private organizations, and other institutions, while the BSI scientific leadership provides strategic support and guidance for BSI’s research laboratories, research administration and management activities.
In 1976, I opened a window that, according to one account, had been closed for a hundred years. That window led me to a major discovery in the field of immunology, and it was after that discovery—when deciding what to study next—that the idea came to me of researching the brain.
The brain is one of the greatest mysteries known to mankind, on par with the mystery of the universe itself. Just thinking about it stimulates the imagination.
The RIKEN Brain Science Institute (BSI), where I currently serve as director, brings together researchers from many different disciplines and from many different parts of the world to pursue a broad range of theoretical and applied research. This research ranges from microscopic-level molecular mechanisms at synapses, neurons, and neural networks, to the macroscopic-level phenomena of recognition, learning and memory, and further to areas such as language acquisition and the interface between brains and computers.
As a pioneer in the field of brain science, BSI has a track record of groundbreaking discoveries in the field. Its development of basic infrastructure technology for the global research community as well as its contribution to academic scholarship has earned BSI a reputation as one of the most highly respected brain science research centers in the world.
Today, BSI is taking on a more important role than ever before, with society placing increasing demands on brain science and the possibilities it offers. Research efforts at BSI to clarify neural circuit mechanisms have begun to answer these demands with, among other things, a range of cutting-edge new technologies. BSI is also active in seeking to clarify the underlying causes of brain dysfunctions such as Alzheimer's disease and mental disorders, whose severe consequences cast a shadow over our society today. Through partnerships with industry, BSI also strives to find ways to benefit society by applying basic knowledge gained from research.
With an eye toward the future of brain science, BSI aims to train the next generation of scientists, and has devoted significant energy toward supporting young researchers.
Among the various fields of science, only brain science has a scope broad enough to cover the full range of human activities. BSI builds on this fact by striving toward a new and comprehensive vision of science, one whose reach goes beyond the bounds of conventional science to provide a clearer understanding of what it is to be human.
The ultimate research challenge awaits you. Won't you join us?