ABOUT THE RESEARCHER

OVERVIEW

Web Site:  Fetal-Neonatal Neuroimaging and Developmental Science Center

Dr. Okada is currently engaged in several areas of research: 

Human brain development - Dr. Okada is the Director of the Magnetoencephalography (MEG) Program at Children's Hospital Boston. This program is part of the Fetal-Neonatal Neuroimaging and Developmental Science (FNNDSC) of the Newborn Medicine Research Center and the Division of Epilepsy of Department of Neurology at Children’s. It is dedicated to furthering our understanding of mechanisms of human brain development,  electrophysiological bases of information processing in the human brain and physiological bases of functional abnormality in children with various neurological and psychiatric disorders. Dr. Okada hopes that this MEG program will provide unique opportunities for scientists at Harvard University to discover the fundamental issues concerning human brain functions and development in health and disease.

Neural current MRI – Dr. Okada and his colleague, Dr. Padma Sundaram, Instructor of Radiology at Children’s recently succeeded in showing that Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can be used to directly measure neuronal currents from the brain of animals, specifically in an intact brain structure called cerebellum in turtle. Dr. Okada believes that this ncMRI can be developed to image neuronal activity directly with MRI in humans.

Electrophysiology of cortical neuronal networks and brain plasticity – Dr. Okada has designed a novel neuroimaging instrument to stimulate one or more focal regions of the cerebral cortex with magnetic pulses and measure functional coupling within various neural networks of interest.  He believes that this new instrument can be used to provide novel understanding of functional roles of various neuronal networks in human brain. He also believes the new technology can be used to help with rehabilitation of children and adults who suffer from various types of brain injury by accelerating reorganization of the brain to optimize the functions of surviving neurons.

BACKGROUND

Dr. Okada received his PhD from the Rockefeller University in New York City in the field of psychology and neuroscience. He is the pioneer in the study of the physiological basis of magnetoencephalography (MEG) and electroencephalography (EEG). He has established through his research carried out over a period of 25 years that these two noninvasive techniques provide direct measurements of the electrophysiological activity of synchronously active neurons. Dr. Okada has made contributions to the development of novel biomagnetic instruments that have opened new ways to study the electrophysiology of the brain and is an inventor of new instruments that are in the process of development. These instruments include a pediatric MEG system called “babySQUID”, the first of its kind optimized for studying the electrophysiological development of human brain, a second-generation pediatric MEG system called “babyMEG”, which is based on the babySQUID, but provides a whole-head coverage with sensitivities and spatial resolution that are higher than any existing MEG instruments, an inverted SQUID (superconducting quantum interference device ) microscope capable of simultaneously measuring biomagnetic fields, electrical potentials and optical images from biological preparations and a whole-head cryogenically cooled Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) system that will provide unique novel methods for studying functional networks of the human brain. Dr. Okada is a founder of a center called “Biomedical Research and Integrative Neuroimaging Center” or BRaIN Imaging Center at the University of New Mexico prior to joining Harvard Medical School. This BRaIN Imaging Center is a state-of-the-art multimodal neuroimaging facility with many types of neuroimaging methods created to provide a research environment for neuroscientists at the University for carrying out competitive research and to provide a training and education environment for developing the careers of the junior faculty members of the University.