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Professor, Faculty of Science, Hokkaido University
博士(医学)(Jan, 2005, 東京医科歯科大学)

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The goal of my laboratory is to elucidate the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying vocal learning, the critical/sensitive period, and species-specific learning constraints, using “songbirds (Passeriformes Oscines)”. Songbirds are known to learn species-specific songs in the early stage of their life, and the learning strategy varies among different species. One of our research interests is to elucidate the evolution of vocal learning and vocal phenotype is accompanied by advantageous gene evolution at cis/trans-regulation that control species-specific regulation of gene expression.

 We are also focusing on the singing-induced genes which were expressed at higher levels by singing in juveniles than adults, in song learning brain areas. Although the singing ability of songbirds is not dependent of their age (both the juveniles and adults can sing), they have a critical period of learning songs, which is also known in human language acquisition: the younger, the easier to master languages. Behavioral, developmental, and area-specific gene expressions should be regulated by various combinations of transcription factors via multi-cis-regulatory elements with epigenetic modifications, such as histone modifications and DNA methylation. Individual experiences and surrounding environments on their life should leave epigenetic codes on their genomic DNA, which are also ruled by the species-specific genome sequences, including species-specific regulatory elements for gene expressions. Thus, I believe that the study of the regulation of these promoters in songbirds will be significantly beneficial to elucidate molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying the critical periods for learning, individual behavior difference and species-specific behaviors.

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