USF World News

Students and faculty from Keio University and USF
Keio University/USF Collaboration in Psychology and Neuroscience
February 7, 2011

Under a joint psychology and neuroscience research initiative, east met west January 28-29 when five researchers from Keio University, Tokyo, Japan, and researchers from the University of South Florida, convened a two-day joint seminar to discuss their work in psychology and neuroscience. Organized by Dr. Toru Shimizu, associate chair, USF Department of Psychology, and Dr. Cesar V. Borlongan, vice chair for research, USF Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair, who are both alumni of Keio University, the seminar featured two days of research presentations, discussion and tours of USF labs. 

 “This was an exciting opportunity from both a research as well as cultural perspective,” said Dr. Shimizu. “The presenters – young researchers and graduate students from both universities – were able to get to know each other and talk about possibilities for future collaboration in education and research. Previously, a graduate student in my lab spent a semester at Keio University to conduct part of his dissertation project. We want to encourage more students from both universities to have similar experiences.” 

The researchers from Keio University were led by Dr. Shigeru Watanabe, professor and chair of the Keio University Department of Psychology and director of the Keio University’s Global Center of Excellence, Center for Advanced Research on Logic and Sensibility.

“Neuroscience research is extremely important to the future of psychology and we are pleased with this international connection,” said Dr. Mike Brannick, chair of the USF Department of Psychology in his welcoming remarks. “Thus, we are honored to have distinguished neuroscience researchers from Japan, which is listed as one of our Opportunity Partners in the USF World plan.”

In his welcoming remarks, Dr. Paul Sanberg, USF Distinguished University Professor and senior associate vice president for research and innovation, said that one of USF’s strategic initiatives is to grow as a global research university.  In that effort, under the leadership of Dr. Karen Holbrook, senior vice president for research, innovation and global affairs, USF is developing goals and programs to initiate more global research collaboration in order to enhance USF’s relationship with international universities and researchers. The focus is on promoting research that can facilitate global education, economic development, technology transfer, global sustainability and a healthy economic interdependence for the economies of all nations.

“There may be no better economy to work with than that of Japan,” said Dr. Sanberg. “And, no better university to represent Japan than Keio University.”

Founded in 1858 by Yukichi Fukuzawa, one of the founding fathers of modern Japan, Keio University is the oldest and most prestigious university in Japan, and often described as “Japan’s Harvard.” According to the Keio University homepage, the university has been credited as the academic and intellectual vehicle that guided Japan out of its “centuries isolation” and fostered Japanese society’s “progress, enlightenment…and education.”

For Dr. Watanabe, who established the Center for Advanced Research on Logic and Sensibility in 2007, international collaboration is “crucial in pursuing breakthroughs in human cognition research.”

“To understand human cognition, we must know its evolutionary origin,” said Dr. Watanabe. “The purpose of our center is to understand the relationship between logic and sensibility, and emotion and reasoning, in human judgement in terms of language, culture, brain chemistry, developmental change and genetics.”

Noting the importance of international research collaboration, Dr. Watanabe highlighted the various collaborations his center has with universities outside Japan, including Cambridge University in the U.K. and McGill University in Canada, and commented on the value of collaborating with USF.

Although a formal relationship between Keio University and the USF Department of Psychology was initiated in 2008, a less formal link between USF and Keio University has existed for many years, since Dr. Borlongan came to USF to do post-doctoral research in neuroscience with Dr. Sanberg from 1993-1995, and through Dr. Shimizu, who has been on the USF faculty since 1991.

“With Dr. Watanabe’s help, Keio University can be a signature Japanese university to help foster USF’s efforts to expand its research mission into Asia,” said Dr. Borlongan. “This bilateral symposium, and student exchange programs, will help make that possible. One of Dr. Watanabe’s students will join us as a post-doctoral student this year.”

Seminar topics included presentations on animal cognition, gene expression changes in the songbird brain, the scope of differential reinforcement, and neuroimage analysis of visual processing.