Back to Basics for Future Neuroscience

Michisuke Yuzaki, M.D., Ph.D.
The 38th Annual Meeting of the Japan Neuroscience Society
Professor, Keio University School of Medicine

  Problematic characteristics of our modern society, such as a lack of norms in social behavior, declining birth rates and an aging population, are linked to the increasing prevalence of developmental, neurodegenerative, and psychiatric disorders. This situation has recently led to stepped up demands and greater expectations for neuroscience research, as such research can contribute to the promotion and maintenance of brain health, the prevention and cure of brain disorders, and the restoration or support for lost bodily functions. In the 1990s, initiatives to promote basic brain research were launched in the United States and Japan. However, these research efforts were frequently criticized for failing to contribute to the promotion of health and the development of industry. At the beginning of the 2000s, as a response to such criticisms, research budgets became more focused on translational research that aims to convert the findings of basic science into practical applications in the area of human health by developing new treatment and diagnostic tools. It is also easier to gain political support for translational studies. In the last decade, however, people have reaffirmed the significance of basic research as many, if not all, translational efforts have failed to provide fundamental treatments or cures for diseases. One critic made the comment that translational efforts are doomed to fail unless they are founded in knowledge about the neuronal circuits involved in the disease (Editorial, August 2013, Nature Neuroscience). Although translational efforts are important, we believe that we must promote understanding of the basic structure and function of the brain to better translate research results into practical applications.

  One of the most distinctive features of neuroscience in the life sciences is the extensive area it covers. This annual meeting will be attended by many researchers from a wide variety of fields ranging over molecular biology, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, anatomy and other life sciences and medical disciplines, not to mention psychiatry, rehabilitation, neurosurgery, neurology and other areas of clinical medicine. The important mission of this meeting is to forge closer links between researchers in different fields and to develop next-generation neuroscientists endowed with a wide perspective. To fulfill this mission, our focus is on interdisciplinary symposia and educational lectures as well as collaboration with other clinical professional societies. We have also planned events to encourage as many female and young scientists as possible to actively participate in the meeting. Finally, we have also focused our efforts on promoting interaction with relevant professional neuroscience societies in neighboring Asian countries, the United States and Europe by organizing joint symposia and providing a financial assistance program to cover travel costs. The organizing committee members sincerely hope that this meeting will provide a forum for frank discussions and close interactions amongst neuroscientists of different genders, ages, nationalities and research areas. With the key phrase of gBack to Basics for Future Neuroscience,h we hope to contribute to the development of neuroscience that carries with it the promise of bringing health and happiness to people in the near future.