Okayama University Challenge to elucidate the mysterious human brain! Innovative brain imaging technology that can measure multi-layered functions of the human brain – 7 Tesla ultra-high magnetic field layer fMRI –

National University Corporation Okayama University
[Okayama University] Challenge to elucidate the mysterious human brain! Innovative brain imaging technology that can measure
multi-layered functions of the human brain – 7 Tesla ultra-high magnetic field layer fMRI –

Okayama University is a comprehensive university-type national university corporation with 10 faculties, 1 program, 8 graduate schools, 4 research institutes, an affiliated hospital, and an affiliated school.
This time, “FOCUS ON” was published on September 29, 2022 to introduce the latest research results in an easy-to-understand manner. Please take a look!
October 10, 2022
National University Corporation Okayama University
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-Points of announcement-
The human brain is so full of mysteries that it is called the “inner universe,” and elucidation of multi-layered brain functions ranging from microscopic neurons to the entire brain is required.
We developed layer fMRI technology using an ultra-high magnetic field (7 Tesla or more) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system, and succeeded in measuring brain activity at the layer level of the human cerebral cortex.
This technology is expected to advance the understanding of the functions of the cortical layer that connects microscopic neurons and the macroscopic whole brain beyond the current framework, and contribute to the full elucidation of human brain function.
Research Associate Professor, Department of Integrated Science for Health Systems, Faculty of Science, Okayama University
(Researcher adopted by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) “Emergent Research Support Project”)
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Yang Jiajia Research Associate Professor
The brain is the foundation of the “mind” that is the basis for humans to live like humans, and it has the function of comprehensively controlling the entire body, and the elucidation of human brain function is the greatest frontier of modern science. Current neuroscience research is divided into micro-level understanding of the brain through invasive animal studies and macro-level understanding of the brain through non-invasive human brain imaging studies.
In this way, the fundamental interspecies differences between humans and animals and the differences in brain measurement modalities have become barriers, and each area has been specialized and subdivided. This polarization hinders a fundamental understanding of how the brain processes information to produce higher human functions.
National University Corporation Okayama University (Headquarters: Kita-ku, Okayama City, President: Hiroshi Makino) Academic Research Institute, Department of Integrated Science for Health Systems, Associate Professor Yang Jiajia’s group We have successfully developed a 7-Tesla ultrahigh-field functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology that can measure the activity of Furthermore, in January 2022, the group discovered many world-first findings, such as the successful measurement of layer brain activity associated with prediction error processing in the primary somatosensory cortex, which controls human touch.
In the future, it is expected that the spread of this technology will be able to fill the gap between the micro and macro in the current brain science field and contribute to the full elucidation of human brain functions.
◆ Introduction
The human brain is a complex biological information processing system with a multi-level hierarchical structure of approximately 100 billion nerve cells. Nerve cells, which are substances, form neural
connections through plastic synaptic connections, and more complex neural circuits are constructed by repeating characteristic neural connections between cortical layers on the surface of the brain. allows for more information processing.
In addition, disruption of the neural circuit causes neurological diseases such as dementia, which interferes with daily life. Therefore, understanding the operating principles of neural circuits in each layer of the brain, elucidating the etiology of neurological diseases and developing therapeutic methods based on this
understanding are extremely important issues.
◆ Background
The surface of the human cerebrum is covered with gray matter with a thickness of about 2-4 mm, and nerve cells with characteristic morphologies and roles form a layered structure of 6 layers. The cerebral cortex layer, which is only a few millimeters thick, is the center of various higher brain functions such as perception, cognition, and judgment of the external environment.
However, conventional technology cannot measure brain activity at the layer level of the living human brain, and we are relying on the knowledge of invasive animal research on the functions of neurons and the cortical layer. With the birth of the 7 Tesla (T) ultra-high magnetic field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system for humans in the early 2000s, development of an imaging method capable of measuring the activity of the cerebral cortex layer at 100-micron resolution, which was previously difficult, began. gave hope.
Even now, about 20 years later, an imaging method that can measure the functional activity of the cerebral cortex layer has not yet been established, and the current situation is that research groups mainly in Europe and the United States are involved in development. Research Associate Professor Yang, Faculty of Science, Okayama University, has succeeded in developing the layer fMRI imaging method using 7T-MRI for the first time in Japan, and is the first in the world to measure the layer activity of the human somatosensory cortex. was successful.
◆Research contents and achievements
 MRI uses the resonance phenomenon of hydrogen atoms (protons) in the human body in a strong magnetic field to image the differences in proton density in internal organs, muscles, etc., and is used for clinical diagnosis of all kinds of diseases. Around 1990, after it was proven that MRI could measure changes in blood oxygen concentration associated with cranial nerve activity, this method was named functional MRI and has contributed greatly to the understanding of human brain function.
On the other hand, the commonly used fMRI signal (blood oxygen level dependent signal) is affected by the veins running on the brain surface, so we are facing a major problem of not being able to identify brain activity signals at the layer level.
Research Associate Professor Yang succeeded in developing a layer imaging method using VASO signals, which are sensitive to changes in blood volume in capillaries in the brain, and overcame the problems inherent in conventional fMRI signals. We named this fMRI technology using ultra-high-field MRI “layer fMRI” and applied it to research aimed at elucidating the neural basis behind human tactile perception. Tactile information is detected by a group of receptors inside the skin, and after reaching the middle layer of the primary somatosensory cortex (S1) of the cerebral cortex via the spinal cord and thalamus, information is transmitted between layers and between brain regions. are analyzed and processed at each level of the brain, from micro to macro (Fig. 1).
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Figure 1. Flow of human tactile information processing and layer structure of the primary somatosensory cortex
However, there are still many unclear points about the details of the layer-level processing mechanism of haptic information. To that end, research associate professor Yang et al. focused on the predictive brain properties of humans, designed a task to predict the timing of fingertip stimulation, and examined layer brain functions of prediction and prediction errors in human S1 Did. As a result, we clarified for the first time in the world that tactile signals are input to the middle layer of human S1, and predictive feedback signals are input to the surface and deep layers of S1 (Fig. 2). Furthermore, subsequent research has shown that the processing of prediction errors is closely related to the deep activity of S1. In 2022, Research Associate Professor Yang was selected for the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) Emergent Research Support Project, and is working to develop the field of human brain layer imaging research. [Image 4

Figure 2. Human S1 layer activity
◆ Perspective
The spread of this technology is expected to promote the full elucidation of the neural basis of human brain function. Understanding human brain function from both micro and macro perspectives will lead to understanding and development of early diagnosis and treatment methods for neurological diseases, for which DALYs (disease-related loss of life and livelihood index) are the largest among medical diseases. is expected.
FOCUS ON: Challenge to unravel the mystery of the human brain! Innovative brain imaging technology that can measure multi-layered functions of the human brain – 7 Tesla ultra-high magnetic field layer fMRI –
https://www.okayama-u.ac.jp/up_load_files/press_r4/press20220928-1.pdf 〇 Efforts to Support Graduate Students and Young Researchers at Okayama University: Research Associate Professor System
 Okayama University provides university-wide support for researchers with outstanding research achievements from the perspective of promoting the enhancement of research capabilities and training young researchers. As part of this support, in order to encourage “Associate Professors” to play an active role as independent PIs (Principal Investigators), incentives such as the title of “Research Professor” and the allocation of research funds and enhancement of research activities are provided. Since 2018, we have implemented a “research professor” system.
In addition, from April 2020, we have implemented a “research associate professor” system for lecturers and assistant professors. Research Professor Yang was also appointed as a “Research Associate Professor” on June 24, 2021, and was granted the title of Research Associate Professor by President Makino on September 23.
 https://www.orsd.okayama-u.ac.jp/kenkyusha/research-professor/ [Image 5

Efforts to Support Graduate Students and Young Researchers at Okayama University ◆ Reference
・Graduate School of Integrated Sciences in Health Systems, Okayama University  https://www.gisehs.okayama-u.ac.jp/
・Applied Brain Science Laboratory, Faculty of Science, Okayama University  https://sites.google.com/view/jiajiayang-jp
・Okayama University Faculty of Engineering
◆ Reference information
・[Okayama University] Granting the title of Okayama University “Research Associate Professor” to Assistant Professor Yang Jiajia  https://prtimes.jp/main/html/rd/p/000000284.000072793.html
・[Okayama University] Okayama University Public Relations “Gingko Namiki” Vol.98 has been published [Special feature on the research activities of Research Associate Professor Yang]
・[Okayama University] A round-table conference was held between President Makino and young researchers (Emergent Research Support Project, Inamori Research Grant)
◆ Reference information: FOCUS ON
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Okayama University Tsushima Campus (Kita Ward, Okayama City) ◆ Inquiries regarding this matter
Research Associate Professor, Department of Integrated Science for Health Systems, Faculty of Science, Okayama University
 Tsushima Campus, Okayama University, 3-1-1 Tsushimanaka, Kita-ku, Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture 700-8530
 TEL: 086-251-8053
 FAX: 086-251-8266
E-mail: yang◎okayama-u.ac.jp
     ※Please replace ◎ with @.
 https://sites.google.com/view/jiajiayang-jp/%E3%83%9B%E3%83%BC%E3%83%A0?authuser=0 -Inquiries regarding Okayama University’s industry-academia-government collaboration-
 Okayama University Organization for Research Promotion Headquarters for Industry-Academia-Government Collaboration
 1-1-1 Tsushimanaka, Kita-ku, Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture 700-8530  Okayama University Tsushima Campus Main Building 1F  TEL: 086-251-8463
E-mail: sangaku◎okayama-u.ac.jp
 Okayama University Media “OTD” (web):
 Okayama University SDGs website: https://sdgs.okayama-u.ac.jp/  Okayama University SDGs-Thinking about the sustainability of local communities (YouTube): https://youtu.be/Qdqjy4mw4ik
 Industrial-academia co-creation activity “Okayama University Open Innovation Challenge” Recruiting co-creation activity partners for the term ending in October 2022:
 Okayama University “THE Impact Ranking 2021” Comprehensive Ranking Within the top 200 in the world, No. 1 in Japan!!
 Okayama University “University Brand Image Survey 2021-2022” “University Active in SDGs” Ranked 1st in Chugoku/Shikoku!!
 Okayama University Ranked 1st in Chugoku/Shikoku in the 2022 edition of the “University Image Survey from the Perspective of Company Personnel Managers”!!
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National University Corporation Okayama University supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition, we have received the government’s first “Japan SDGs Award” Special Award

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