About our work

Surrounded by many objects and creatures, you choose, reach out, and manipulate some of them. You do so habitually to carry out routine work or deliberately with a new goal in mind. Probably unbeknownst to you, these complex behaviors are guided by a simple behavior called saccadic eye movement by which the line of sight is shifted quickly from one object to another. Our goal of research is to understand the neuronal mechanisms that control the saccadic eye movement. It has been demonstrated that the saccadic eye movement is controlled by hierarchically organized neuronal networks. The different levels of the networks carry different signals, from the brainstem networks carrying reflexive signals to the prefrontal cortical networks carrying cognitive signals. How can these parallel networks be controlled? Our research has shown that there are inhibitory gating mechanisms in different areas in the brain which are capable of selectively allowing or nullifying the outputs of individual networks. A remarkable area among them is the basal ganglia which are equipped with powerful inhibitory and disinhibitory mechanisms. How then do the inhibitory-disinhibitory mechanisms work? What controls the mechanisms? We believe that answering these questions is crucial for understanding how the brain has evolved to achieve such complex tasks.

Neuronal Networks Section key staff

Key staff table
Name Title Email Phone
Okihide Hikosaka, M.D., Ph.D. NIH Distinguished Investigator oh@lsr.nei.nih.gov 301-496-9375

News from this lab

How the Brain Learns That Earmuffs Are Not Valuable at the Beach

January 19, 2021

A new study from the University of Tsukuba in Japan and the NEI reveals how the brain learns to place different values on objects depending on the environmental context.
Last updated: July 24, 2019