Hitoshi Okamoto, Riken Brain Research Institute, Japan

Hitoshi Okamoto

After taking the MD from the Medical School of Tokyo University, Japan (1983), Hitoshi Okamoto was trained as a molecular geneticist using Drosophila and obtained PhD from Tokyo University (1988), and went abroad to Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA to get training on developmental neurobiology using fish. There, he studied the mechanisms for the axonal pathfinding by the spinal motor neurons toward the pectoral fin in the Japanese Medaka embryo. Back in Japan (1988) at the National Institute for Basic Biology and Keio University, he initiated the study using zebrafish as an independent researcher, and elucidated that a family of transcription factors (Isl1 family) play important roles in the specification of spinal motor neurons. After moving to the Brain Science Institute (BSI) of RIKEN (1997), he performed the large-scale forward mutant screening, and elucidated the mechanisms for the differentiation of the hindbrain motor neurons by analyzing the isolated mutants. In the past ten years, he has been interested in using zebrafish for the study of the neural circuit mechanisms for emotion and decision making by taking advantage of the evolutionary conservation of the brain structures between fish and mammals. Especially, he has elucidated the mechanisms for the asymmetric development of the subregions of the habenula and revealed their critical roles in controlling fear behaviors and in the social conflict resolution for dominance or the submission by using various genetic or optogenetic manipulations. He is currently a deputy director and a senior team leader of BSI and an adjunct professor at Tokyo University, Waseda University and Keio University, and has served as the chair of the Asia-Pacific Regional Committee of the International Brain Research Organization (APRC-IBRO) and the treasurer of the Federation of the Asia-Oceania Neuroscience Societies (FAONS). He was awarded the Tokizane prize by the Japanese Neuroscience Society (2014).

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