Professor Masao Ito ForMemRS
Masao Ito is a Japanese neuroscientist who studies the motor learning functions of the cerebellum, a small region in the lower part of the brain previously thought only to play a role in coordinating motor control. Masao discovered the unexpected inhibitory action of the Purkinje cells, or neurons, on the deep cerebellar nuclei, which provide the only output from the cerebellum to the rest of the brain.
He also discovered that, together, the two excitatory inputs into Purkyne cells — climbing fibres and parallel fibres — can cause long-term depression in the parallel fibre synapses, a finding that has helped to improve our understanding of cerebellar learning.
Masao has received many awards in recognition of his work, including the 1996 Japan Prize and the 2006 Gruber Prize in Neuroscience. He was also elected as a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1990. Masao’s career has also seen him active in both scientific leadership roles and in promoting international efforts in the brain sciences.