和多和宏 准教授 / WADA, Kazuhiro

行動の個体差はいかにつくられるのか

和多和宏 准教授 /  WADA, Kazuhiro

研究分野・テーマ・内容

研究分野 分子神経行動学
研究テーマ 音声コミュニケーション学習と生成の分子基盤の解明

研究内容

本研究室の目指すものは、ヒトの言語学習を含む個体間コミュニケーション、とくに音声コミュニケーションの学習と生成に関与する、脳神経回路・メカニズムを物質・遺伝子レベルで明らかにしていくことです。実際の研究戦略としては、親鳥の囀りパターンを学習するSongbird(ソングバード:鳴禽類 図参照)を動物モデルとして用い、分子生物学・神経生物学・動物行動学といった研究手法を駆使し新しい研究分野「分子行動神経学」を立ち上げようとしています。また、どのようにして動物の個体差が行動レベルで現れてくるのかに関心をもって研究を進めています。鳥類と哺乳類の間で、神経回路・遺伝子配列レベルで多くの相同性が存在することが明らかになってきています。ソングバード研究から将来、ヒトの言語習得を含めた脳内分子基盤の理解へつながる研究を目指します。

Wada

メッセージ

上記以外にも様々な研究プロジェクトが現在進行中です。将来的には失語障害や吃音(どもり)といったコミュニケーション障害等の医療応用を視野にいれた研究を長期的なビジョンとしてもっています。本研究室は、2007年4月からスタートしました。国内はもとより世界を相手に、自分たちが知りたいことに貪欲に、そして果敢に挑んでいく研究室に成長していきたいと考えています。何もないところからはじめることに「可能性」を感じ、それを「楽しめる」心をもつ人間といっしょに研究をしたいと思っています。人間として誠実で一所懸命にやれる人、やってみようと思う人。「何のために、研究するのか?」これにしっかりとした考えをもつ人。どうぞ、扉が開いています。

nameWADA Kazuhiro

Research subject

Specialized field

Molecular Neuroethology, Behavioral Neuroscience

Key words

・Molecular neuroethology
・Neuroscience
・vocalization
・gene expression
・neural network
・language
・speech
・songbird
・critical period
・epigenetics
・nature
・nurture
・learning strategy
・individual difference

Research subject

My research interest is to elucidate the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying animal behaviors, especially learned vocal communication. Our laboratory has been studying the behavior of “songbirds (Passeriformes Oscines)”, which have a very unique “singing songs” behavioral pattern, as an animal model. Songbirds are known to learn species-specific songs in the early stage of their life, and the learning strategy varies among different species.

One of our research interests is to elucidate the evolution of vocal learning and vocal phenotype is accompanied by advantageous gene evolution at cis-regulatory elements in promoter regions that control species-specific regulation of genes.

We are also focusing on the singing-induced genes which were expressed at higher levels by singing in juveniles than adults, in song learning brain areas. Although the singing ability of songbirds is not dependent of their age (both the juveniles and adults can sing), they have a critical period of learning songs, which is also known in human language acquisition: the younger, the easier to master languages. Behavioral, developmental, and area-specific gene expressions should be regulated by various combinations of transcription factors via multi-cis-regulatory elements with epigenetic modifications, such as histone modifications and DNA methylation. Individual experiences and surrounding environments on their life should leave epigenetic codes on their genomic DNA, which are also ruled by the species-specific genome sequences, including species-specific regulatory elements for gene expressions. Thus, I believe that the study of the regulation of these promoters in songbirds will be significantly beneficial to elucidate molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying the critical periods for learning, individual behavior difference and species-specific behaviors.

Songbirds provide an ideal neuroethological model system. Their singing behavior can be easily observed, quantified, and described as shown above. The behavior is controlled by a discrete neural network, which causes production and learning of vocalizations, and has analogies to human speech. With these advantages, in-vivo gene manipulation techniques allow to investigate the functions of genes for developmental and species-specific behaviors using. Thus, the songbird will be a great candidate for future research in these areas to investigate at the level of individual animal behavior at molecular genetics level.

Songbirds also have the potential for studying human communication disorders, such as aphasia and stuttering. With the genomic information of the songbird, various studies using songbirds will be able to provide much more useful information in terms of utilizing songbird data for the elucidation of biological mechanisms of other organisms, including human

 

message

I always welcome ambitious young people (students) who want to be a professional scientist. With such young colleagues, I would like to do pioneering work which will lead to a new biological field “molecular genetic ethology,” as I have named it. If you have similar (not same) mind, join in our laboratory!

references

  • Wada K*, Howard JT, McConnell P, Whitney O, Lints T, Rivas MV, , Horita H, Patterson MA, White SA, Scharff C, Haesler S, Zhao S, Sakaguchi H, Hagiwara M, Shiraki T, Hirozane-Kishikawa T, Skene P, Hayashizaki Y, Carninci P, Jarvis ED*A molecular neuroethological approach for identifying and characterizing a cascade of behaviorally regulated genes.PNAS 103:15212-15217. 2006