Basic Medicine, Neuroscience


To Understand Brain Function at the Molecular Level

Medical Sciences Course

  • Master / Doctoral Degree



Professor, M.D. Ph.D.

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    hmushiak* (Please convert "*" into "@".)

*Concurrent Position

Research Theme

  • Molecular basis of synaptic function
  • Synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus and the cerebellum
Research Keywords:

synaptic transmission in cerebellum, developmental changes in synapses, physiological models

Technical Keywords:

patch-clamp, cerebellar slices, electromicroscopy

Laboratory Introduction

In the brain the neural information is carried from neuron to neuron at synapses. A single neuron has typically hundreds to thousands synapses. Activity of a neuron is thus determined by the integration of synaptic activities, some of which are excitatory and others are inhibitory. Brain functions such as learning and memory are explained by the plastic change of synapses. Despite the importance of synapse, there remains a vast unrevealed field in the physiology of presynaptic terminal. The progress of research is hampered by three major difficulties, (1) the small size of presynaptic terminal that is typically 0.5-2 um, (2) the functional heterogeneity and (3) the biochemical complexity of presynaptic functions. We plan to break through these difficulties by developing new methods to visualize presynaptic functions under microscope. Thus, the visualization of presynaptic functions would enable us to reveal the morphological and physiological changes of presynaptic terminal during a process of learning and memory and facilitate us to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the presynaptic plasticity. We are now studying these processes at molecular level using hippocampal slice , cerebellar slice and isolated cell preparation of non-excitable tissues including megakaryocytes and hematic cell lines (ex. Meg-01 cell).

Figure 1. Evoked glycinergic currents in cerebellar nuclei

Figure 1. Evoked glycinergic currents in cerebellar nuclei

Figure 2. Presence of glycinergic synapses in cerebellar nuclei

Figure 2. Presence of glycinergic synapses in cerebellar nuclei

Recent Publications

  • Kawa, K. Inhibitory synaptic transmission in area postrema neurons of the rat showing robust presynaptic facilitation mediated by nicotinic ACh receptors. Brain Research, 1130, 83-94, 2007.
  • Kawa, K. Discrete but simultaneous release of adenine nucleotides and serotonin from mouse megakaryocytes as detected with patch and carbon-fiber electrodes. American Journal of Physiology-Cell, 286, C119-C128, 2004.
  • Kawa, K. Glycine receptors and glycinergic synaptic transmission in the deep cerebellar nuclei of the rat: a patch-clamp study J Neurophysiol. 90: 3490-3500, 2003.