Cellular and Synaptic Basis of Sentience and Sapience

We aim to obtain mechanistic understandings of how we sense external world and how we attach meanings to sensation a priori and a posteriori

Most of us love watching beautiful pictures, eating delicious foods and listening to favorite songs, conciously or subconciously. The ultimate goal of the Yamashita Research Unit is to understand how we establish preferences for certain types of sensory stimulus. Toward this end, we investigate information processing of individual neurons and neuronal networks related to sensation and sensory perception.


To identify cell-types we study and to manipulate activity of specific neuronal circuits, we use genetically engeneerable mammals such as mice. Because such animals don't speak, we infer animals' thought by quantifying behavioural motor output. Neuroscientists have long studied correlation between neuronal activities and behavioural output. Recently they have obtained a new tool called optogenetics to reveal the causality of neuronal activity for behavioural execution. However, we still lack knowledge on the mechanisms underlying such correlation and causality; we don't know exactly how the specific neuronal populations give rise to action potentials in a given time window during behaviour; and it is also poorly understood why these action potentials are essential for resultant motor outputs. We tackle these issues using bottom-up approaches: by means of in vivo patch-clamp recordings directly from identified neuronal subtypes in awake behaving animals, in combination with other electrophysiological recordings as well as a variety of genetical, optical and histological techniques.