The 2018 Kyoto Prize
11 /11 Sun
Place：Kyoto International Conference Center
The 2018 Kyoto Prize Kyoto Prize Laureates
Optogenetics: Studying Proteins from Single-celled Algae to Illuminate the Mysteries of the Brain
Abstract of the lecture
My path to Kyoto began at Harvard, in the 1980s, where I first planned to focus on writing, as my calling and career. I found myself derailed by science however, becoming captivated by new principles emerging from biology and engineering. After completion of my M.D., Ph.D. and psychiatry training at Stanford (where I continue to treat patients), I launched a laboratory effort in Stanford’s Bioengineering Department, and began to build new classes of tools for studying the brain, seeking to find new answers—or at the very least, to find ways to ask new questions. New ways to ask questions are needed; our brains are biological objects, organs built from cells and blood; but in psychiatric illness, the organ itself is not damaged in a way we can see or understand now, in the way we can for a broken leg or a weakened heart. One of the first technologies I developed, optogenetics, involves putting genes from ancient forms of bacteria and from green algae, into specific brain cells of mammals. A strange thing to do—but with a certain logic, for the microbial genes we borrowed in this way directed the production of proteins that turn light into electricity—and electricity is the fundamental language of the brain. These channelrhodopsin proteins are light-gated ion channels that enable algae to seek light conditions suitable for photosynthesis; we have been able to discover principles of function by solving the protein structures and by redesigning for altered ion selectivity, kinetics, and spectral properties. These discoveries not only revealed basic principles governing operation of light-gated ion channels for algal behavior, but also enabled the creation of new proteins for illuminating animal behavior. As a result, we can now flash laser light (delivered through thin fiberoptics deep into the brain) to turn neurons on or off, and observe the effects on behavior. As a result of this work, we know now which cells and connections across the brain actually control key behaviors of pleasure, reward, social interaction, and motivation to meet challenges, as well as (on the negative side) symptoms of anxiety, depression and fear. This optogenetic technology has taken hold throughout neuroscience and now enables us to test precise cellular basis for behavior by controlling the brain’s circuitry.
Fifty Years with Algebraic Analysis
Abstract of the lecture
Two years after matriculating at the University of Tokyo in 1965, I joined that university’s Mathematics Department but I did not have the slightest inclination to become a mathematician at that time. It was only my encounter with Dr. Mikio Sato, in 1968, that ultimately led me to pursue a career in mathematics. Dr. Hikosaburo Komatsu (still in his 30s) had just returned from the U.S., and he and Dr. Sato were holding weekly algebraic analysis seminars. At the strong recommendation of Dr. Takahiro Kawai, who was my senior by a year, I began attending those seminars and that was where I got to know Dr. Sato. That chance meeting opened the door to my subsequent career as a researcher in mathematics, specifically algebraic analysis. In fact, Dr. Sato was the founder of the field of algebraic analysis. Today, we mathematicians call a variable quantity a function, and the act of researching a function is referred to as mathematical analysis, whereas algebra involves study in which numbers and their mathematical operations (sums and products) are expanded beyond ordinary numbers for the purposes of research. Then, algebraic analysis employs algebra to elucidate essential qualities that lie deep within mathematical analysis. In 1969, when I began attending his seminars, Dr. Sato presented the idea of micro local analysis, which makes it possible to handle non-smooth functions algebraically. This approach would subsequently spread to mathematical fields beyond mathematical analysis in various ways. Since then, my main work has been to establish a technique for connecting geometry and algebra through utilization of mathematical analysis. After completing my master’s program in 1971, I took up an assistant position at Kyoto University’s Research Institute for Mathematical Sciences (RIMS), where I spent several years enthusiastically establishing micro local analysis with Drs. Sato and Kawai, who had also transferred there. Having the chance to engage in mathematics with those two eminent figures represented a giant leap forward in my life as a mathematician. From them, I learned the joy of conducting mathematical research. Thereafter, I went on to achieve many things, including the establishment of the Riemann-Hilbert correspondence and discovery of crystal bases, and it was my encounter with those two pioneers that laid the foundations for all of my subsequent mathematical research.
In the Shadow a Shadow
Abstract of the lecture
I will trace my ideas of altering the image through the mediums of performance, video, and installation while considering the recurring themes in the work which include references to art history, and rituals of cultures other than my own. Also very important in relation to my ideas of structure and content has been my ongoing interest in the language of film, as well as poetic structure in the modernist tradition. These life experiences of visual and sonic perception are imprinted on my memory, and my work. Drawing has always been a part of my practice. With each project I experiment with ways of drawing in relation to the space of the work, the technology, the subject matter, and material or technique. I will also discuss my approach to and development of movement and the use of props in relation to sound or music as well as to camera and space. Projected fragments from performances and videos will be included in order to clarify these ideas. I began with the mirror as prop and made performances with mirrors. One could say this was a mirror stage that overlapped my involvement with the medium of video after I purchased a Porta Pak in Japan in 1970. The video monitor became an ongoing mirror reflecting the process of inventing an alter ego and character opposite from my own like Organic Honey. I began to move between the forms of live video performance and autonomous video works. The one fed into the other. At the same time performance outdoors were made in relation to how outdoor space and distance alters the image and or one’s perception of sound and image. Following is a list of important moments that follow the trajectory of a life’s process: