FY2018 Annual Report

Neuronal Rhythms in Movement (nRIM) unit
Assistant Professor Marylka Yoe Uusisaari

nRIM unit during OIST fire evacuation drill. (From left to right) Kevin Dorgans, Salvatore Lacava, Alex Kuck, Thai Hoa Huynh, Da Guo, Emmanuelle Albert, Saeko Hedo, Yang Mi, Aysen Gurkan Ozer, Yoe. Missing: Bogna Ignatowska-Jankowska. 


The second full year of operation for nRIM unit saw a shift from equipment build-up phase to setting up experimental works and first real data recordings in vitro and in vivo. Preliminary results of experiments conducted in the unit were presented at several national and international venues. The unit activities attracted numerous rotation students, one of whom - Salvatore Lacava - decided to join the lab as a graduate student in September 2018. 

A major undertaking by the whole team was organizing an international OIST-funded workshop at the end of the FY18, constituing an important milestone in making nRIM and OIST known in the field of motor neuroscience.

1. Staff

  • Dr. Alex Tang, post-doctoral researcher (until August 2018)
  • Dr. Alex Kuck, post-doctoral researcher
  • Dr. Da Guo, post-doctoral researcher
  • Dr. Kevin Dorgans, post-doctoral researcher (from December 2018)
  • Dr. Bogna Ignatowska-Jankowska, JSPS fellow
  • Dr. Aysen Gurkan Ozer, Technical Staff
  • Mr. Salvatore Lacava, PhD student
  • Ms. Saeko Hedo, Administrative Assistant
  • Ms. Yang Mi, Rotation student
  • Ms. Bozena Silic, Rotation student

2. Collaborations

  • The laboratory of Dr. Benjamin Cravatt, The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology and Department of Chemical Physiology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA.
  • The laboratory of Dr. Sylvia Fitting at the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Department of Biopharmacy at the Medical University of Lublin, Poland.

3. Activities and Findings

In the second year of nRIM operations, the team continued working towards building a comprehensive experimental framework to examine animal motion in high precision. The methods range from viral tracing and in vitro electrophysiology, in vivo imaging and complex behavior assessment. At the end of FY18, the main components are established; in FY19, they will be combined together to allow multi-modal probing and manipulation of the neuronal circuitry underlying movement.

Importantly, in FY18 the nRIM lab established "zero-stress" animal behavioral paradigm workflows, leading to significantly easier and more reliable experimenting.

Figure 1: Drs. Guo and Ignatowska-Jankowska planning deep surgical operations

Figure 2: Dr. Ignatowska-Jankowska adjusts behavioral arena for motion capture experiments

Figure 3. Careful anatomical analysis underlies the use of genetically-encoded tools.

Figure 4. Dr. Dorgans recording electrical activity in acute brainstem slices.


4. Publications

4.1 Journals​

  1. Hermes DJ, Xu C, Poklis JL, Niphakis MJ, Cravatt BF, Mackie K, Lichtman AH, Ignatowska-Jankowska BM, Fitting S. Neuroprotective effects of fatty acid amide hydrolase catabolic enzyme inhibition in a HIV-1 Tat model of neuroAIDS. ​Journal of Neuropharmacology.  doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2018.08.013. (2018)
  2. Kuck, A., Stegeman DF., van der Kooij H., van Asseldonk EHF. Changes in H-Reflex Recruitment After Trans-Spinal Direct Current Stimulation With Multiple Electrode Configurations. Frontiers in Neuroscience, Neural Technology DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00151 (2018)
  3. Kuck A., Stegeman DF, van Asseldonk EHF. Modeling Trans-Spinal Direct Current Stimulation in the Presence of Spinal Implants”. TNSRE DOI: https://doi.org/10.1109/TNSRE.2019.2900377 (2019)
  4. Vrieler N., Loyola S., Yarden-Rabinowitz Y., Medvedev N., Hoogland T., De Zeeuw CI., De Schutter E., Yarom Y., Negrello M., Torben-Nielsen B., Uusisaari MY. Variability and directionality of inferior olive neuron dendrites revealed by detailed 3D characterization of an extensive morphological library. Brain Structure and Function (Available online March 30th, 2019)  DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-019-01859-z

4.2 Books and other one-time publications

Nothing to report

4.3 Oral and Poster Presentations

  1. Uusisaari, MY. From dendritic and network architecture to motor organization in the olivo-cerebellar system. Invited talk at Helsinki University, May 8th, 2018.
  2. Uusisaari, MY. Invited talk at joint OIST/KAIST symposium: Intelligence in Biological Systems and Its Application to Machines. Daejeon, Korea, June 4-5, 2018.
  3. Ignatowska-Jankowska BM.  Emerging behavioral models: From 3D motion capture to behavioral transcriptomics. Plenary lecture at Polish Scientific Networks (PNS): Science & Medicine Conference, Lodz, Poland, June 21-23, 2018.
  4. Ignatowska-Jankowska BM, Hermes DJ, Xu C, Jacob IR, Meeker RB, Niphakis MJ, Cravatt BF, Mackie K, Lichtman AH and Fitting S. Inhibition of FAAH protects against microglial activation and neurotoxicity induced by HIV-1 Tat protein in vitro. Oral presentation ay Annual International Cannabinoid Research Society Meeting, Leiden, Netherlands, 1-4 July 2018.
  5. Ignatowska-Jankowska BM, Hermes DJ, Xu C, Jacobs IR, Meeker RB, Niphakis MJ, Cravatt BF, Mackie K, Lichtman AH and Fitting S. Upregulation of endocannabinoid signaling is neuroprotective against HIV-1 Tat neurotoxicity in vitro. FENS, Berlin, Germany, 7-11 July 2018.
  6. Ignatowska-Jankowska BM, Xu C, Hermes DJ, Jacobs IR, Meeker RB, Mackie K, Niphakis MJ, Cravatt  BF, Lichtman  AH, and Fitting S. Neuroprotective effects of endocannabinoids in models of neuronal damage induced by HIV-1 Tat protein. Oral presentation at 41st  Annual Japan Neuroscience Society Meeting (JNS), Kobe, Japan. July 25 - 27, 2018.
  7. Tang A, Uusisaari MY. Axonal Spike Bursting in the Inferior Olive is Oscillatory-State Dependent. Oral presentation at at 41st  Annual Japan Neuroscience Society Meeting (JNS), Kobe, Japan. July 25 - 27, 2018.
  8. Kuck A,  Ignatowska-Jankowska BM, Uusisaari MY. Application of real-time marker-based motion capture for the kinematic analysis of freely behaving mice. SfN Annual Meeting, San Diego, USA, November 3. - 7., 2018.
  9. Ignatowska-Jankowska BM. New pharmacological strategies to target the endocannabinoid system. Department of Biopharmacy, Medical University in Lublin, Poland. December 18th, 2018. 
  10. Ignatowska-Jankowska BM. Emerging behavioral models: from 3D motion capture to behavioral transcriptomics. Lecture for Pharmacy PhD Program at the Medical University in Lublin, Poland. December 19th, 2018.
  11. Kuck A,  Ignatowska-Jankowska BM, Uusisaari MY. Application of passive marker-based motion capture for the kinematic analysis of freely behaving mice. OIST/Osaka University joint symposium, Osaka, Japan, January 28. - 29., 2019.
  12. Lacava S, Uusisaari MY. A motion capture study of Acoustic Startle Response in mice under different lighting conditions. OIST/Osaka University joint symposium, Osaka, Japan, January 28. - 29., 2019.
  13. Uusisaari MY. Seeking modularity in motor timing. Invited talk at OIST/Osaka University joint symposium, Osaka, Japan, January 28. - 29., 2019.

5. Intellectual Property Rights and Other Specific Achievements

5.1 Awards

  • Dr. Alex Tang received this year’s Masao Ito prize for his poster presentation at the 2018 Society for Research on the Cerebellum and Ataxia in Taiwan. The Ito prize is recognition of the best poster at the annual symposium of the society.
  • Dr. Ignatowska-Jankowska received this year’s Postdoctoral Scientific Achievement Award for the presentation at the 28th Annual International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) Symposium on Cannabinoids, Leiden, Netherlands (awarded annually to 5 presenters). ICRS is a leading international society focused on cannabinoid research.
  • Prof. Marylka Yoe Uusisaari received OIST Excellence in Mentoring Award. The award is presented by the OIST Researcher Community, and is given in recognition of Faculty members’ strong commitment to outstanding mentoring career advancement for group members and OIST Employees.

6. Meetings and Events

6.1 OIST workshop "Neuronal Dynamics in Motor Behavior" Feb. 18-20th, 2019

The first international workshop orgnized by the nRIM unit brought to OIST a diverse group of neuroscientists, clinicians and philosophers to discuss various aspects of movement generation and control. The speakers, ranging from talented graduate students to senior scientists, were encouraged to step outside their usual comfort zones and to reach out to researchers working on various brain mechanisms. The 3-day event received also strong interest from the OIST community and most lectures were "standing room only". In addition to lectures and a lively poster session, the attendees enjoyed traditional Okinawan music and dance performances. Notably, nearly half of speakers, session chairs and invited workshop participants were women.

6.2 Seminars hosted by nRIM unit

6.2.1 In Vivo Calcium Imaging of Neural Circuits

  • Date: January 21st, 2019
  • Venue: OIST Campus Lab1
  • Speaker: Dr. Vania Cao (Inscopix, USA)

6.2.2 A novel fluorogenic chemical probe for live microglia visualization

  • Date: January 24th, 2019
  • Venue: OIST Campus Lab1
  • Speaker: Dr. Masahiro Fukuda (Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore)

6.2.3 Endocannabinoid system in the pathophysiology of osteoarthritic joint pain

  • Date: February 15th, 2019
  • Venue: OIST Campus Lab1
  • Speaker: Dr. Katarzyna Starowicz-Bubak (Institute of pharmacology, Polish Academy of Science, Krakow)

6.2.4 Sub-cellular microscopic imaging in the brain of awake behaving mice

  • Date: February 21st, 2019
  • Venue: OIST Campus Lab1
  • Speaker: Dr. Leonard Khirug (University of Helsinki, Finland)

6.2.5 Visual selection in the mouse: behavioural and cortical mechanisms

  • Date: February 21st, 2019
  • Venue: OIST Campus Lab1
  • Speaker: Dr. Jasper Poort (University of Cambridge, UK)

6.2.6 Cerebellum - beyond the motor efference copy

  • Date: February 28, 2019
  • Venue: OIST Campus Lab1
  • Speaker: Dr. Aleksandra Badura (Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

6.2.7 Tuberous sclerosis as a model of epileptogenesis - preliminary results of EPISTOP project

  • Date: March 1st, 2019
  • Venue: OIST Campus Lab1
  • Speaker: Dr. Sergiusz Jóźwiak (Warsaw Medical University)

7. Other

7.1 Joint Cerebellar Journal Club

The joint journal club with specific focus on cerebellar research papers, with the Computational Neuroscience Unit, was extended to include the Optical Neuroimaging Unit in FY 2018. During the year, the JCJC met 15 times, with presentations alternating between the laboratories.

7.2 Events at OIST

7.2.1. OIST Skill Pill "Inkscape"

Dr. Guo Da arranged a training in the Skill Pill series to introduce Inkscape, a powerful open source vector-based software.  

7.2.2. Professional development 

Dr. Bogna Ignatowska-Jankowska held two OIST-internal career development talks as the Speaker at Networking lunch for female faculty, researchers, technicians, and students: “Importance of funding acquisition and methods” (February 2019)

7.2.3. OIST Researcher Community Meeting

Dr. Bogna Ignatowska-Jankowska gave a presentation at OIST Researcher Community Meeting “Kinematic signatures of cannabinoids” (March 2019)

7.2.4. TEDxOIST

nRIM student, Salvatore Lacava, was a co-organizer and curator for the 2018 TEDx event, held in October 2018. 

7.3 Community outreach activities

In FY18, several of the nRIM unit members volunteered in various community and science outreach projects, interacting with members of the public both in Okinawa and Japan. 

7.3.1. International Science School of Japan (ISSJ)

The 2018 International Science School of Japan (ISSJ) Spring Program was hosted by OIST in April 2018. Over the course of 4 days, nRIM post doc Alex Tang mentored a small group of elite high school students, teaching them the basics of microscopy and electrophysiology and how it can be used in neuroscience. The students used the discussions and lab demonstrations to design an electrophysiology experiment that could investigate the mechanisms of dementia. 

The 2018 ISSJ Summer Program was hosted by Hokkaido University (July 30th~August 3rd) and brought together 25 elite high school students from Asia and the UK. During the program, Dr. Alex Tang ran a hands-on workshop on sensory neuroscience and used the data collected by the students to teach them the basics of data analysis. In addition, he worked closely with a subset of students and mentored them in research practices and scientific presentation. This group went on to design an experiment using viruses to treat bacteria resistant infections and were subsequently awarded the 2018 ISSJ Summer Program Award for the scientific quality and clarity of their final presentation.

During the 2019 ISSJ Spring program, again hosted at OIST in March 2019, Dr. Alex Tang as well as Dr. Da Guo mentored a group of students, teaching them about neuronal circuits optical methods in neuroscience. 

Dr. Guo Da giving a lecture to the high-school students about neuronal circuitry

Hands-on experience with 3D fluorescence microscopy

More information on the ISSJ program can be found here.

7.3.2 Okinawa Science Mentoring Program (OSMP) July-August 2018

The purpose of the program is to familiarize high school students with academic research and career. nRIM post doc, Dr. Da Guo, mentored 2 high school students, throughout the program. The students were introduced to the on-going research and got hands-on experience with histology and confocal microscopy. 

Dr. Da Guo with his mentees after a successful mentor program.


7.3.4 OIST children's school of science

nRIM member, Dr. Aysen Gurkan Ozer, gave 2 lectures with demonstrations to 1-3 graders, delighting them with "Invisibility with optics" and "Magic with static electricity". Great success!

Dr. Aysen Gurkan-Ozer demonstrating how glass disappears in oil.

Static electricity attracts paper!

7.3.5 SCORE internships for high school students

Every year, OIST and the U.S consulate hold a science event called “SCORE! Science in Okinawa: Research for Enterprise” in December. This event is a science presentation competition where Okinawan high school students present their science projects and talk about how they can turn their ideas into business opportunities in the future.

The winners of the competition receive prizes and one of them is a 2-day internship at OIST. In March 2019, nRIM unit hosted students for a day of science experience. Dr. Aysen Gurkan-Ozer gave a lecture about using animals to study brain function, and the students got to see Motion Capture system.

Dr. Aysen Gurkan-Ozer discusses animal work with the students.

Demonstration of behavioral experimental system

7.3.6 Public school lecture

February, 2019: Kyuyo SSH High School lecture in JSPS Science Dialogue Program “Understanding mouse behavior: from 3D motion capture to behavioral transcriptomics", by Dr. Bogna Ignatowska-Jankowska.