Research groups

Group of Nutritional Neuroscience
(Section of Industry-Academia-Collaboration)

Group of Nutritional Neuroscience (Industry-academia collaboration) The performance of higher-order brain functions such as cognition, decision-making, as well as memory, is altered by the brain states. Nowadays, age-dependent decline of brain performance is one of the serious social issues. If the aged brain performance can be sustained or improved, our quality of life will be affluent. It is generally accepted that nutritional factors impact on proper brain performance. However, molecular mechanisms of nutritional effect on brain functions are still largely unclear. So here, we have launched Nutritional Neuroscience group. It combined nutritional science and cognitive neuroscience, to address the nature of nutritional effects on higher-order brain functions.

Approach using Model Organisms

Our research goal is to understand neuronal and molecular mechanisms of nutritional effects on higher-order brain functions. To achieve this goal, we take advantage of simple model organisms with small brains, fruit flies and round worms. Although they have simple brain systems, they show relatively complex functions. Our research topics are summarized in the following sections.

Plasticity of the Brain Functions for the adaptive behavior (Hiroshi Ishimoto)

Endocrine system helps our brain properly work by communicating with internal environments such as intestinal flora involved in the brain-gut axis. It may surprise you that fruit fly Drosophila also has hormones such as neurotransmitters, peptides, and steroids that are structurally and functionally quite similar to us human beings. We applied fruit fly Drosophila as a model system to study complex action of endocrine factors on brain functions because of the simple nervous system and powerful molecular genetics tools of Drosophila (Ref. 1-5). Moreover, even with such a tiny brain, fruit flies show higher-order brain functions such as learning & memory, decision making, and sleep. By using this sophisticated model system, we will tackle the mystery of nutritional regulation of cognition function of the brain.

Exploring the Brain-Gut Axis using Worms (Kentaro Noma)

Organisms are affected by genetic factors (nature) and environmental factors (nurture). A round worm, C. elegans, has been widely used to uncover the biological functions of genetic factors. We have been studying the genetic mechanisms underlying the neuronal development (Ref. 6-7) and establishing new genetic approaches to address this issue (Ref. 8-9). In Nutritional Neuroscience group, we will utilize C. elegans as a model to study how environmental factors, especially nutrition, can affect brain functions. Moreover, we will use genetic approaches to reveal the molecular basis of those effects.

Section of Industry-Academia-Collaboration Group of Nutritional Neuroscience


  1. Ishimoto H, Wang Z, Rao Y, Wu CF, Kitamoto T. A novel role for ecdysone in Drosophila conditioned behavior: linking GPCR-mediated non-canonical steroid action to cAMP signaling in the adult brain. PLoS Genet. 2013;9(10)
  2. Ishimoto H, Lark A, Kitamoto T. Factors that Differentially Affect Daytime and Nighttime Sleep in Drosophila melanogaster. Front Neurol. 2012 Feb 27;3:24.
  3. Ishimoto H, Kitamoto T. Beyond molting--roles of the steroid molting hormone ecdysone in regulation of memory and sleep in adult Drosophila. Fly (Austin). 2011 Jul-Sep;5(3):215-20.
  4. Ishimoto H, Kitamoto T. The steroid molting hormone Ecdysone regulates sleep in adult Drosophila melanogaster. Genetics. 2010 May;185(1):269-81.
  5. Ishimoto H, Sakai T, Kitamoto T. Ecdysone signaling regulates the formation of long-term courtship memory in adult Drosophila melanogaster. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2009 Apr 14;106(15):6381-6.
  6. Noma K, Goncharov A, Jin Y. Systematic Analyses of rpm-1 Suppressors reveal roles for ESS-2 in mRNA splicing in Caenorhabditis elegans. Genetics. 2014 Nov;198(3):1101-15.
  7. Yan D, Noma K, Jin Y. Expanding views of presynaptic terminals: new findings from Caenorhabditis elegans. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2012 Jun;22(3):431-7.
  8. Noma K, Jin Y. Optogenetic mutagenesis in Caenorhabditis elegans. Nat Commun. 2015 Dec 3;6:8868.
  9. Noma K, Jin Y. Optogenetic random mutagenesis using Histone-miniSOG in C. elegans. J Vis Exp. 2016 Nov 14;(117).
Section Section of Industry-Academia-Collaboration
Group Group of Nutritional Neuroscience
Director Hiroshi Ishimoto, Ph.D.