Kazumasa Z. Tanaka, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

I grew up in Fujisawa, Japan. I’m a father of two kids. I enjoy a hectic life with my family.
I always find it difficult to define my expertise because I got my undergraduate education in molecular biology, was trained in psychology during PhD, and did a postdoc in physiology. If I had to say, I like to consider myself a psychologist who uses biological/physiological approaches.


Damien Mercier, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist


Hiroto Ashitomi, M.Sc.
Technical Staff



Lorena Andreoli, M.Sc.
Ph.D. Student

I was born and raised in Brasilia - Brazil, where I completed my BSc in Psychology. I then moved across the country to pursue a MSc in Neuroengineering where I worked with animal models of psychiatric diseases. I moved to Okinawa in 2018 and have been working at Neurobiology Research Unit and Memory Research Unit for my PhD. Besides work, I enjoy going to the beach, playing sports, and spending time with my friends and dog :)


Viviane Saito, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Researcher

I am a Psychologist, MSc. in Neurobiology, and Ph.D. in Sciences, with a strong background in Behavioral Neurosciences, Animal Models of Psychiatric Disorders, and Neuropharmacology. In 2017, I moved to Japan as a JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow and my project focused on the role of gut microbiota-brain axis in Autism Spectrum Disorders. I continued my knowledge pursuit as Technical Staff on the cellular and molecular basis of long-term synaptic plasticity in the cerebellum. Since 2020, I have joined OIST and the Memory Research Unit to investigate the fascinating mechanisms of memory, from molecules to behavior. My research interests are broad and I am truly enthusiastic about challenging myself to new fields and diversifying my experiences.


Tomoka Yoseyama
Research Intern

I am a senior studying biology at Minot State University in North Dakota, the US. I am originally from Ishigaki island in Okinawa, and I moved to the US after I graduated from high school. I am interested particularly in the brain which controls behaviors. I joined Memory Research Unit at OIST as a research intern in order to learn research skills involving behavioral neuroscience, and I am passionate about learning new things about neuroscience. Besides work, I like interacting with animals, talking to my friends, and listening to music. I am so excited to get new experience in neuroscience here at OIST.


Thato Mokhothu, B.Sc.
Ph.D. Student

Hailing from Maseru, Lesotho, I pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Bremen, Germany where I received my qualification in Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience. There I worked on understanding the neural correlates of habits and addictions and researched the strategies for their neuromodulation in humans. I joined the Memory Research Unit because of my fascination with hippocampus research in memory and my aim to better understand how neurological diseases affect it. Outside of the lab, I enjoy dancing (I’m a loyal member of the OIST Brazilian Dance Club), exploring this pristine island, and going out to sing karaoke with friends.


Keiko Nakamura
Research Unit Administrator


Miyu F. Nambu, B.Sc.
Ph.D. Student

I graduated in BSc Neuroscience at University of Leeds, UK. I am interested in memory impairment in neurocognitive disorders and psychiatric disorders. I believe that studying the mechanism of memory will eventually help to elucidate these disorders. As an intern student I would like to treasure the opportunities to build up my knowledge and skills for further research. In leisure time, I love to spend time with animals (especially cats) and concern about animal welfare.


Yu-Ju Lin, M.Sc.
Ph.D. Student

I received my BSc in Life Science and MSc in Neuroscience at National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan. There, I investigated the role of Nucleus Reuniens in trace fear conditioning in rats. I joined the Memory Research Unit at OIST in 2021 to develop my research skills and to obtain a better understanding of learning and memory. In my free time, I like to hang out with friends, watch a new anime/show/movie, and explore this beautiful island.


Josefine Reuschenbach, M.Sc.
Ph.D. Student (co-supervised with Fukunaga Unit)

After attending an interdisciplinary M.Sc. program in Developmental, Neural and Behavioral Biology in Germany, I decided to further focus on Neuroscience. For my master thesis I investigated transcriptomic differences of oligodendrocytes between humans and mice at the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine. For my first lab rotation at OIST I joined the Memory Research Unit and can hopefully broaden my knowledge about brain mechanisms of storing information. In my free time I love doing sports, play board games and enjoy time with friends.


Kaoru Ohyama, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist


I was born and grew up in Japan. I'm interested in the mechanism of the brain, especially by investigating the extracellular activity of neurons.
I'm also a mother. Life with kids is full of unexpected and surprising experiences, which always give me insight into my curiosity about science. 
I feel relaxed when swimming and taking care of two Newt.


Yuma Kajihara
Ph.D. Student (co-supervised with Doya Unit)

I am a PhD student jointly supervised by Prof. Kenji Doya and Prof. Kazumasa Tanaka. I am interested in Bipolar Disorder (BD), the most ancient and mysterious mood disorder. During the current graduate program, I investigate how serotonin modulates neuronal activity on the Paraventricular Thalamus and affects behavior related to BD. Before coming here, I received my BEng and MSc at the University of Tokyo, where I studied machine learning and theoretical biology. Besides science, I enjoy playing football, learning new things like surfing, cooking, reading, and relaxing with my family and cat.



Balashwethan Chockalingam
Ph.D. Student (co-supervised with Fukai Unit)

I grew up near Chicago, IL and pursued a BSc and BA in Physics and Math from the University of Chicago. However, recently I've changed my focus to Neuroscience with an interest in the discrimination, storage and retrieval of memory and the impedence of this process, and the effect this has on learning and cognition. To this effect, I have joined MRU as a rotation student to gain experience in neural recordings in the hippocampus. In my free time, I enjoy bouldering, paddleboarding, and writing poetry/short stories.



Yuta Konno
Research Intern

I'm a sixth-grade medical student at Yamagata University Faculty of Medicine, and I'm currently taking a one-year leave of absence. After graduating from university, I would like to go on to a doctoral course in Neuroscience to research brain functions. Therefore, through my internship at the Memory Research Unit, I hope to learn the techniques of Neuroscience experiments such as Ca2+ imaging on animals and improve my general research skills such as setting up themes and scientific thinking. I'm so excited that I can learn neuroscience in the perfect environment of OIST, surrounded by fascinating colleagues!



Minato Abe
Research Intern

Hi I am a third-year med student in University of Ryukyus and also currently a research intern in Kaz Unit. I strongly believe that experience/memory builds the fundamental part of human characteristic, which reveals as his/her behavior. Also, I think there should be some kind of physiological cascade which explains this. As a med student, I do have some knowledge in human brain science – still many in hippocampus remain yet discovered. This is why I came here to explore my interest in neuro biology and to find out if I am capable as a researcher. In my free time, I enjoy dancing, volunteering, stand up surfing, doing yoga and most of all travelling.



Ai Takahashi, M.Ed., M.Sc.
Technical Staff

I was born and grew up in Okinawa. Based on my career as a Neuropsychologist at hospital, I was motivated to pursue a MSc in Cellular Neurobiology with visualizing by combination of light and electron microscopy. My research interest is how the interaction between neurons and glial cells brings neurocognitive functionally stable/unstable. Besides work, I am trying my best on parenting. I like to grow Orchids, knitting, go to Karaoke, playing sports and eating.

Lab Alumni


Chie Narai
Research Unit Administrator


Reanna Norman
Research Intern

I am currently pursuing a BA in Neurobiology at the University of California, Berkeley. I was born in Naha, Okinawa, lived in Houston, Texas, Southern California, and now the Bay Area of California. I consider myself a multifaceted individual with a wide range of interests rooted in my passions for neuroscience, self-preservation, and collective healing. Through this internship, I hope to learn as much as I can and look forward to getting to know the scientists driving our future within and without their area of expertise. Outside of science, I enjoy the arts, particularly photography and filmmaking, listening to music, daydreaming, journaling, eating, reading in cafes, and skateboarding.


Shuhei Hara
Rotation Student

I was born and raised in Nagasaki, Japan. I completed my bachelor’s degree in Human Science at Waseda University, having the chance to complete my bachelor’s project with the Neural Computation Unit at OIST. Currently, my interest is in computational modelings of psychiatric diseases, especially schizophrenia. My third rotation at this unit would hopefully allow me to explore neurobiological mechanisms of the disorder by conducting mice experiments. In my spare time, I enjoy playing basketball, running, and snorkeling.



David Bierbrauer, M.Sc.
Ph.D. Student



Sutashu Tomonaga
Rotation Student

I have a B.Eng with a background in the analysis of Information Learning Systems. My current future goal is to create a system to assist humans in regulating their behavior/emotions using Machine Learning. To do so, I have found it is imperative to understand the science of Intentionality and Anxiety, which are my latest interests. During my rotation at MRU, I want to gain first-hand experience in behavioral experiments and neurophysiological measurements and a deeper understanding of biological reward systems.