The Brain Research Center (BRC) of National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (NYCU) is a nationally renowned research center consisting of multidisciplinary teams of scientists and clinicians. The focus of the BRC is on six major basic and clinical science disciplines related to normal and pathological brain functioning. These are headache and pain, neurodevelopmental disorders, neurodegenerative disorders, psychiatric disorders, normal and disease-associated cognition, and neurotechnology. To advance our knowledge in these areas of research, the BRC draws on the strengths and resources of NYCU and Taipei Veterans General Hospital. The overall goal of the center is to establish a cross-species and multidimensional brain database bridging data from animals to humans, including both basic and clinical data, molecular to systemic networks data, and data reaching from genetic expression to cognitive behaviors. Such a database can be used to study the physiopathological mechanisms and develop personally-optimized precision medicine targeting disease progression and symptom alleviation and may, furthermore, be used to promote medical and biotechnological industries in Taiwan.
Headache and pain
The Headache and Pain Research Group has been one of the leading groups internationally that have targeted both clinical headache services and research.
The research group has become renowned for contributing to Taiwanese epidemiological studies, implementing cutting edge technologies and equipment in migraine pathophysiological research, taking the leading role in studies related to reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS), spontaneous intracranial hypotension (SIH) and other rare primary headache disorders in the world. Our research also has been focusing on the neuroimaging-based chronic pain disorders and the development of non-invasive neurotechnology (e.g., neuromodulation) for clinical applications.
Many neurological and psychological disorders result from abnormalities in neural development. The Brain Research Center focuses on a wide range of brain diseases and via the research carried out by the Neural Development Group, it targets the mechanistic aspects of brain diseases. Over the past few years, members of the Neural Development Group have established various different models, including mouse, fruit fly and human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) models and these have been used to study brain diseases. Importantly, the Neural Development Group’s collaboration with clinical researchers has been able to reveal in detail the molecular mechanisms of a number of brain diseases. These findings help with the discovery of novel therapeutic targets that can be used to treat brain diseases.
This group aims, using in vitro and in vivo models, to understand the pathogenic mechanisms behind Alzheimer disease (AD), the pathogenic mechanisms underlying the depositing amyloid protein, and to develop/test novel treatment/prevention approaches for AD.
We are using the largest cohort study of Alzheimer’s disease in Taiwan to explore blood-based and neuroimaging-based biomarkers for AD.
We are also investigating the role of SUPT4H nucleotide expansion in neurological disorders. Furthermore, his group is investigating the genetic mechanisms behind inherited neurological diseases, with an an emphasis on cerebral small vessel disease, inherited peripheral neuropathy, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Finally, this group is also analyzing the effects of cerebral ischemia and inflammation on brain injury and how neurodegeneration progression interacts with susceptible genes.
This research group has used randomized-control trials and neuroimaging methods to explore effective treatments for major depression disorder. The treatment approaches have included theta burst stimulation over the prefrontal cortex by repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and low-dose ketamine. We have also established a rat model aimed at helping our understanding of the mechanisms behind how ketamine and rTMS can help relieve treatment-resistant depression. The group has used also used electroencephalographic event-related potentials (that is mismatch negativity regarding emotional syllables and error-related negativity in moral scenarios, linked to functional/structural neuroimaging, that is guilt-related neural activation), as well as other neurocognitive tasks, to explore the potential neural signatures associated with major depression disorder.
Mormal and disease-associated cognition
Understanding how the human brain performs complex cognitive computations is a key question in cognitive and systems neuroscience. To help answer this question, the Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience group (CSN) consists of an interdisciplinary group of psychologists, neuroscientists, and clinicians who aim to unravel the mysteries of human cognition by combining behavioral, computational, neurophysiological and neuroimaging approaches. This unique combined approach of the CSN group involves using intracranial stereo-EEG (SEEG) recordings obtained from epilepsy patients that record more than a hundred neurophysiological signals across many brain regions of humans.
Sydney Brenner (2002 Nobel laureate in Physiology/Medicine) asserted, “Progress in science depends on new techniques, new discoveries and new ideas, probably in that order.” In keeping with that spirit, an important domain of this research group is to develop new techniques that will allow us to study brain function at the single neuron level. We are developing a variety of tools for labeling, tracing, recording, imaging and manipulating single neurons. By synergizing our talents with other BRC resources, we aim to provide unprecedented opportunities for scientists to use these cutting-edge techniques on the NYMU campus. This will increase the momentum of brain research, and thus promote our international competitive edge.