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Focus on Basic Research Helps Transform Neuroscience

Published November 15, 2019

Meet Shigetada Nakanishi, MD, PhD


Winner of the 2017 Senior Scientist Innovators in Science Award.
Shigetada Nakanishi, MD, PhDSuntory Foundation for Life Sciences, Bioorganic Research Institute

Shigetada Nakanishi, MD, PhD
Suntory Foundation for Life Sciences, Bioorganic Research Institute

Shigetada Nakanishi's pursuit of a scientific career began with a desire to help his home country of Japan in the aftermath of World War II. "My generation had a strong motivation to rebuild Japan again," Nakanishi told us. "So I decided to take a career in basic research." While his initial focus may have been on revitalizing Japan, Nakanishi's decision to focus on understanding key aspects of how the brain functions resulted in discoveries that have helped transform the field of neuroscience.

In 2017, Dr. Nakanishi was awarded the Senior Scientist Innovators in Science Award for his work to uncover essential components of neural networks, including diverse glutamate receptors that mediate communication between neurons. His work also revealed how the cerebellar and basal ganglia circuits control motor coordination, learning and motivation. In addition, he developed an innovative cloning strategy for cloning membrane-embedded transmitter receptors, and uncovered genes encoding NMDA and G-protein coupled glutamate receptors.

Watch the video above to learn more about Nakanishi's remarkable career.

Nominations for the 2020 Innovators in Science Award close on November 22, 2019. Learn more about how you can nominate someone here.