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The Innovators In Science Award Honorees Are Breaking New Ground In Neuroscience: Shigetada Nakanishi

Dr. Shigetada Nakanishi has uncovered essential components of neural networks.

Albert Einstein reportedly once said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Though the 2017 honorees of the Innovators in Science Award have plenty of countable achievements, their stories reveal a common thread — creative approaches to their work and the development of disruptive tools that transformed scientific understanding in their discipline.

Unmasking Cellular Messengers

Shigetada Nakanishi

During medical school, Shigetada Nakanishi, MD, PhD, became frustrated when he realized how little was known about the etiology of many diseases. “As a consequence, I gradually began to think that research work on basic medicine to explore the mechanisms of diseases is more valuable as my life work,” he says.

This change of heart set him on a path of scientific discovery that has shaped modern understanding of the brain’s function. Nakanishi, Director of the Suntory Foundation for Life Sciences Bioorganic Research Institute and Senior Scientist Winner, has uncovered essential components of neural networks, including diverse glutamate receptors that mediate communication between neurons. His work has also revealed how the cerebellar and basal ganglia circuits control motor coordination, learning and motivation.

Along the way, he developed an innovative cloning strategy for cloning membrane-embedded transmitter receptors, and uncovered genes encoding NMDA and G-protein coupled glutamate receptors.

“Science can be fruitfully done and [is] enjoyable when you design and carry out your experiments according to your own questions and ideas,” he says. “Then, you will be deeply inspired and surprised with the beauty of nature.”

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Academy Staff
This article was written by a member of the Academy staff.

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