Wataru Inoue



Why I Became a Scientist

Indiana Jones was one of my childhood heroes. I dreamed of having adventures, travelling to unknown places and searching for hidden treasures. During my undergraduate studies, I had the opportunity to work in a neurophysiology lab and I was immediately hooked on the fun of experiments; the moments leading up to the result gave me a feeling somewhat similar to a treasure hunt (even if the treasure box turned out to be empty). I also realized other similarities like the fascinating adventure of trying to understand how the brain works.

Research Summary

The goal of my research is to understand the effects that stress has on the functioning of the brain, and consequently behaviour. To examine the neurophysiological underpinnings for such mechanisms, my lab uses a multidisciplinary approach including patch clamp electrophysiology, optogenetics, biochemical and histological analysis, and behavioural and physiological manipulations.

Stress triggers a so-called “fight-or-flight” response. This rapid defense mechanism involves coordinated changes in both psychological (i.e. fear, aggression) and physiological (i.e. release of stress hormone corticosteroids, elevation of heart rate) functions which collectively enhance our ability to handle impending challenges. In addition to this immediate response, stress promotes associative learning that lasts beyond the stressful experience. In other words, we form a memory of a stressful episode and this memory reshapes the way we will respond to future challenges. I aim to advance our understanding about (1) the fundamental cellular and molecular mechanisms through which stressful experiences influence neural and synaptic plasticity in specific stress-related brain circuits, and (2) the causal relationships between stress-associative neural plasticity and the changes in physiological functions and behaviour.

Research Questions

How does stress modify neural circuits?

My current research aims to understand the mechanisms of stress-induced neural plasticity. To study this, we use patch clamp electrophysiology in brain slices prepared from mice and rats subjected to various stress paradigms. We also combine optogenetics with ex vivo electrophysiology as well as in vivo stress paradigms in order to examine the roles of genetically and anatomically defined neural circuits in stress-associative synaptic plasticity and learning.

How does excessive stress cause maladaptive neural plasticity?

Excessive stress, vulnerability to stress, or a combination of both, increases the risk for various illnesses including depression, post traumatic stress disorder, hypertension and immune dysfunction. The pathogenesis of such stress-related disorders likely involves forms of neural plasticity that give rise to maladaptive physiological and psychological alterations that in turn make up the symptoms of these diseases. My lab uses chronic stress paradigms (animal models of depression) to identify specific forms of neural plasticity that may underlie the physiological and behavioral symptoms relevant to depression. In particular, my current research focuses on the potential roles of inflammatory processes and glial activation that may be involved in the development of neural plasticity that is characteristic of the chronically stressed brain and depression-related physiological and psychological symptoms. My research may lead to promising drug targets and the development of novel, evidence-based stress-coping strategies.


  • PhD, McGill University (2009)
  • MSc, Kyoto University, Japan (2003)
  • BSc, Kyoto University, Japan (2001)


  • Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Calgary (2009-2014)


  • Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Postdoctoral Researcher of the Year, University of Calgary, 2013
  • David Proud Award for Research Excellence, University of Calgary, 2013


View all PubMed publications

Contact Info

Robarts Research Institute
Western University
Room 7241
Email: winoue@robarts.ca