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Researcher | Research Overview

Information processing in the brain occurs at synapses. Defects in synapse development underlie many neurological and psychiatric diseases. We are therefore interested in the molecules and manner by which specific and functional synaptic circuits are established in the mammalian brain. We then apply our findings to the prevention and treatment of disorders associated with abnormal synapse development, such as autism, schizophrenia, and epilepsy.

Specifically, we identify molecules and mechanisms that regulate:

  1. Development of specific synaptic circuits. In the brain, there are many distinct circuits that regulate a variety of behaviors. We investigate how specific synaptic circuits are established and function to regulate specific behaviors.
  2. Activity-dependent refinement of synaptic circuits. To establish the most efficient synaptic circuits, synaptic connections must be refined by neural activity during the final stage of synapse development. We investigate how functional synaptic circuits are established in the brain in vivo.

We use molecular and cellular, mouse genetic, imaging, physiological, behavioral, and optogenetic techniques. We aim to understand the principle of mammalian brain wiring and how the functional brain is built. The knowledge obtained will be applied to prevent or treat neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Researcher | Research Background

Hisashi Umemori’s initial training was as M.D. (University of Tokyo), but early in his clinical career, he decided to devote himself to understanding the basis of the neuropsychiatric diseases that he was unable to treat properly. At the University of Tokyo, he analyzed the molecular mechanisms underlying myelination (Ph.D. work) and synaptic plasticity. These studies kindled his interest in how synapses form in the brain - As a postdoctoral fellow in Joshua Sanes’ lab at Washington University and Harvard University, Dr. Umemori started studying synapse development. He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan in 2006 and returned to Harvard University and joined the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center at Children's Hospital in 2013, deciphering the mechanisms underlying the establishment and function of specific and functional synaptic circuits in the mammalian brain.

Dr. Umemori received awards from Klingenstein Fellowship, Robert H. Ebert Clinical Scholar, Mallinckrodt Foundation, March of Dimes Foundation, and Whitehall Foundation.

Researcher | Publications