|| Insects show a variety of unique behaviors despite of their relatively simple nervous systems. Recent studies reveal that even hemimetabolous insects (for example: cockroaches, or crickets), which are evolutionally more primitive than social insects (ants, honeybees), show high capability of associative memory. Neural mechanisms underlying mutisensory integration and memory formation in animals have been largely unknown, and are now being a big subject on Neuroscience. My current research focuses on olfactory and gustatory processing in the first-order (deutocerebrum) and the higher-order centers (mushroom body, lateral protocerebrum) of cockroaches. Relatively large sized-neurons in the brain allow us to identify most of interneurons singly. From both neuroanatomical and neurophysiological aspects, I have studied neuronal architecture of the primary centers of gustation (contact chemosensation) (Nishino et al., 2005), hygro/thermosensation (Nishino et al., 2003) and olfaction (Nishino, in preps). Therefore, now stage is set to step into the systematic analysis of the mushroom body served for multisensory integration and associative memory formation. I believe that such studies using the basal neopteran insect not only help understanding basic neural principles common to animals but also complement cellular functions revealed by molecular genetic studies in Drosophila.
In my research career, I have studied 1) neural mechanisms of behavioral switching (from active state to inactive state) and 2) morphologies of chordotonal organs in orthopteran insects. Thus, I have a broad interest on animal behavior and sensory mechanisms. Basic neuroanatomical techniques, intracellular recording, extracellular recordings, and behavioral analysis are mainly used in my laboratory.
I have had good research collaborations with Drs. Larry Field (University of Canterbury, New Zealand), Hans-Joachim Pflüer (Freie Universität, Germany), Makoto Mizunami (Tohoku University, Japan), Masaki Sakai (Okayama University, Japan), Michiko Nishikawa (Fukuoka University, Japan), and Fumio Yokohari (Fukuoka University, Japan).