FY2010 Unit on Neural Systems and Behavior

Unit on Neural Systems and Behavior

Principal Investigator: Masaki Isoda
Research Theme: Neuronal mechanisms of cognition and behavior



The Unit on Neural Systems and Behavior was established April 2010 to clarify the neuronal mechanisms of cognition and behavior using awake non-human primates. We are interested in how neurons in both local and large-scale brain networks implement a variety of functions such as movement, attention, cognition and emotion. Our experimental approaches include single/multi-unit recordings, delivery of pharmacological compounds, deep brain stimulation, and development of acute, reversible animal models. In FY2010, we discovered a neuronal mechanism of self/other distinction in the domain of motor action – a fundamental aspect of social cognition; we proposed cortico-basal ganglia mechanisms of switching motor behaviors; and we developed an integrative experimental system investigating the large-scale neuronal network mechanisms of cognition and behavior.

1. Staff

  • Dr. Kevin McCairn, Researcher (September 2010-)
  • Dr. Yukio Imamura, Researcher (September 2010-)
  • Ms. Akiko Hara, Research Administrator / Secretary

2. Collaborations

  • Theme: Neural basis of social cognition
    • Type of collaboration: Joint research
    • Researchers:
      • Dr. Atsushi Iriki, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Wako, Japan
      • Dr. Nobuhito Saito, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, Hongo, Japan
      • Dr. Kyoko Yoshida, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, Hongo, Japan
  • Theme: Cortico-basal ganglia mechanisms of purposive motor behavior
    • Type of collaboration: Scientific collaboration
    • Researchers:
      • Dr. Okihide Hikosaka, National Eye Institute, NIH, Bethesda, U.S.A.

3. Activities and Findings

3.1 Neuronal mechanisms of social cognition

People tend to view other social beings as analogous to the self, yet also identify them as unique. We investigated neuronal mechanisms underlying such shared and unique self-other representations in the domain of voluntary action. In our study, two monkeys sitting face-to-face monitored each other’s choice for adaptive motor decisions. We found that apart from neuronal activity specific to one’s own action, the medial frontal cortex (MFC) encompasses a unique neural code for the other’s action (partner type) and a shared neural code between self-action and other’s action (mirror type). The response property of the partner and mirror types was not accounted for by the animals’ gaze direction, muscular activity, or social hierarchy. Our findings suggest that the MFC plays a role in self-other distinction in the domain of motor action and provides a fundamental neural signal for social learning.

3.2 Cortico-basal ganglia mechanisms of behavioral switching

Most daily tasks are performed nearly automatically. Yet, it is necessary to alter a routine if something changes in the environment and the routine behavior becomes inappropriate. Such behavioral switching can occur either retroactively based on error feedback or proactively by detecting a contextual cue. On the basis of recent imaging and electrophysiological findings in humans and monkeys, we have proposed our hypothesis that the anterior cingulate cortex acts retroactively and the pre-supplementary motor area acts proactively to enable behavioral switching, while the subthalamic nucleus and the striatum in the basal ganglia mediate cortical signals to implement behavioral switching. We propose that breaking a routine to allow more adaptive behavior requires a fine-tuned recruitment of the frontal cortical-basal ganglia neuronal network.

3.3 Local and large-scale neuronal network mechanisms of behavior

The goal of this research is to uncover the operating principle of both local and large-scale neuronal networks underlying the three major domains of brain functions, that is, action, cognition and emotion using awake, behaving macaques. For this purpose, we have installed an experimental setup that allows us to perform electrophysiological recording/stimulation and delivery of pharmacological compounds at multiple critical nodes in the central nervous system. Many important findings are expected in FY2011.

4. Publications

4.1 Journals

  1. Hikosaka O & Isoda M. Switching from automatic to controlled behavior: cortico-basal ganglia mechanisms. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 14: 154-161 (2010).
  2. Yoshida K, Saito N, Iriki A & Isoda M. Representation of others’ action by neurons in monkey medial frontal cortex. Current Biology 21: 249-253 (2011).
  3. Isoda M & Hikosaka O. Cortico-basal ganglia mechanisms for overcoming innate, habitual, and motivational behaviors. European Journal of Neuroscience (In press).

4.2 Books and other one-time publications

  1. 磯田昌岐 & 吉田今日子. 前頭葉における自己と他者の動作表現. Clinical Neuroscience (In press).

4.3 Oral and Poster Presentations

  1. Isoda M (2010) Cortico-basal ganglia mechanisms for switching from automatic to controlled behavior. Symposium on conscious and unconscious decision-making. The 87th Annual Meeting of the Physiological Society of Japan (Morioka, Japan; May 19).
  2. Isoda M, Yoshida K, Saito N & Iriki A (2010) Representation of self and other actions in the medial frontal cortex. The 33rd Annual Meeting of the Japan Neuroscience Society (Kobe, Japan; September 3).
  3. Isoda M (2010) Your action or mine? A neuronal code for others’ action in monkey medial frontal cortex. Workshop on brain mechanisms of embodiment (Okazaki, Japan; October 22).
  4. McCairn KW (2010) The comparative effects of pallidal deep brain stimulation in basal ganglia hypo and hyper-kinetic motor disorders in non-human primates. The 41th NIPS International Symposium on New Frontiers in Brain Science: Towards Systematic Understanding of Human Beings (Okazaki, Japan, December 16).
  5. Yoshida K, Saito N, Iriki A & Isoda M (2010) Learning from other’s error and the role of the medial frontal cortex in monkeys. The 40th Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (San Diego, USA; November 17).
  6. Isoda, M (2011) Monitoring other’s action and the role of the medial frontal cortex. The 11th Winter Workshop on the Mechanism of Brain and Mind (Rusutsu, Japan; January 13).
  7. McCairn KW (2011) The comparative effects of deep brain stimulation in basal ganglia hypo and hyperkinetic disorders. RIKEN Workshop on mental disorders (Wako, Japan; February 24).
  8. Isoda, M (2011) Role of different medial frontal regions in monitoring the behavior of others. Workshop on Conflicts and Resolution: The Role of Medial Frontal Cortex in Choice Behavior. Computational and Systems Neuroscience 2011 (Salt Lake City, USA; February 28).
  9. Yoshida K, Isoda, M (2011) Role for the medial frontal cortex in monitoring other’s action. The 1st Tohoku International Symposium on Multidisciplinary Neuroscience (Sendai, Japan; January 21).

5. Intellectual Property Rights and Other Specific Achievements

Nothing to report.

6. Meetings and Events

6.1 Seminar

  • Date: June 17, 2010
  • Title: OIST Seminar
  • Speaker: Dr. Kevin W. McCairn (The Open University, UK)