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  • Yoshihide Sunada, M.D., Ph.D. Professor

Education policy and programs

Neurology deals with various diseases involving the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), the peripheral nervous system (cranial and spinal nerves), and skeletal muscle. Specifically, these diseases include cerebrovascular diseases (cerebral hemorrhage and cerebral infarction etc.), neuroinfectious disease (meningitis and encephalitis etc), neurodegenerative disorders (Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis etc.), demyelinating diseases (multiple sclerosis etc.), functional neurological disorders (epilepsy and migraine etc.), brain tumors, neuropathies, myopathies, and so on.

Neurology is characterized by the following features: (1) its semiology is far more complex than that of other organ systems, (2) there are an enormous number of neurological diseases corresponding to the complexity of the nervous system, and (3) highly specialized knowledge is required for making accurate diagnoses. Thus, in order to master neurology, we need to establish a profound and integrated knowledge of neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. In addition, we also require a basic knowledge of molecular biology and molecular genetics in order to understand the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders.

On the basis of our educational philosophy, our lectures require that students not only simply memorize the numerous pieces of knowledge, but also teach them how exciting it is to think logically based on the basic principles of clinical medicine. More specifically, our goals of undergraduate education are followings: (1) to give students an understanding of common neurological diseases, (2) to teach them to make the correct diagnosis and treatment for patients with common neurological diseases, (3) to teach them to recognize those neurological diseases requiring consultation to neurologists for further examination, and (4) to teach them how to react properly to neurological emergencies.

To achieve the above-mentioned objectives, we have set up the following educational programs: In the third grade, the students take intensive lectures assigned as “systemic lectures on neurology” in which teachers from distinct divisions including neurology, neurosurgery, and cerebrovascular medicine present a series of lectures covering basic and clinical aspects of neurological disease systematically and comprehensively. We are in charge of teaching neurological examinations, neurological laboratory testing (CSF, EMG, and EEG), and the major categories of neurological diseases.

During the fifth grade, we have a small group-based training program consisting of two major parts, one is tutorial and the other is clinical clerkship. In the tutorial, students learn basic and clinical neurology through problem-oriented case studies. In the clinical clerkship, they participate in a medical team as a student doctor together with residents under the supervision of attending doctors. Through the clinical clerkship, students learn how to make neurological examinations, how to interpret laboratory and neuroimaging data, and eventually how to make a final diagnosis. They also join the ‘chart round’ meeting in which they learn how to make therapeutic plans through vigorous discussion.

Themes of Research

The aims of our research are to overcome the intractable neurological diseases in the 21st century, and we try to discover the molecular pathomechanisms of neuromuscular disorders and develop novel therapeutics using cutting-edge research including molecular and developmental biology, cell biology, and genetic engineering.

Our research projects include:
  1. Studies on the molecular pathogenesis of muscular dystrophy focusing on the signaling pathways involved in muscle cell degeneration.
  2. Development of therapeutic strategies for muscular dystrophy on the basis of the underlying molecular pathogenesis. More specifically, we are trying to establish anti-myostatin therapyand cell-based therapy using direct reprogramming of fibroblasts.
  3. Studies on molecular mechanisms leading to neuronal degeneration in Parkinson disease, especially focusing on the physiological function of parkin protein which is responsible for autosomal recessive juvenile parkinsonism.
  4. Studies on beta- amyloid toxicity to understand the molecular pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease.
  5. Development of a novel gene therapy for diabetic neuropathy.