Fumi Kubo receives the Young Investigator Award 2016

Acknowledgement of research on the neural circuit that processes visual motion

April 06, 2016

Dr. Fumi Kubo, scientist at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, has been awarded the Young Investigator Award of the Japan Neuroscience Society. The prize acknowledges the scientific achievements of the young neurobiologist and is intended to encourage her to continue a career in the field of neurobiology. The award will be presented at the annual meeting of the Japan Neuroscience Society in July in Pacifico Yokohama (Japan).

Generally speaking, animals and humans can navigate in their three-dimensional environment without difficulty. This is often achieved, in addition to the vestibular system, with the help of the eyes. Every movement causes the environment to move past the eyes in a specific way, leaving a characteristic motion trace on the retina. Nerve cells are able to calculate from this "optic flow" the organism's self-motion.

Fumi Kubo investigates how the brain calculates optic flow and translates it into a specific behavior in the brain of zebrafish larvae. This is no easy task, as the diminutive brain of a five-millimeter-long fish larva contains about a hundred thousand neurons. One advantage, however, is that the brains of the zebrafish larvae are almost completely transparent. The activity of neurons can thus be observed and manipulated by light under the microscope.

Using an elaborate combination of genetic and optical methods, Fumi Kubo and her colleagues were recently able to identify a whole slew of new nerve cell types. These could, for example, help to explain why the brain distinguishes between translational (forward or backward) and rotational (clockwise or counterclockwise) movements. Thus, the results allocate a new function to the investigated brain region. "In my future research, I would like to investigate the wiring diagram of these cell types and explore how they influence behavior", relays Fumi Kubo. "I am highly honored to receive the prize of the Japan Neuroscience Society indicating that our research is recognized in the neuroscience field."

Fumi Kubo studied Biology at the Kyoto University (Japan). After receiving her PhD, she worked at the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute in Wako (Japan) and the University of California in San Francisco (USA). In 2012, Fumi Kubo came to the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology. Since 2015, she has been leading her own project group in the department Genes – Circuits – Behavior, headed by Prof. Herwig Baier.

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