For more than 20 years of research experience in invertebrate nervous systems. I am interested in how the nervous system generates species-specific behaviors through precise configuration of neural networks. Specifically, I have been studying inter-individual variations within a species and inter-species differences in neural mechanisms underlying the swim behaviors of sea slugs. I have been interested in regulatory mechanisms and function of simple neuronal circuits. My first research training started as an undergraduate thesis project in 1992 at University of Tsukuba, Japan. I studied the physiological action of the cardioregulatory neurons onto the heartbeat of an isopod crustacean. My first post-doc study started in 1998 at University of Calgary. I studied the mechanosensitivities of pacemaker neurons in the crustacean heart. In 2000, I became a research fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) and studied the development of the cardioregulatory projection in crustacean embryo at Tokyo Metropolitan University. In the same year I moved to Tokyo Medical and Dental University as Research Assistant Professor and joined the research on the central mechanism of masticatory rhythm generation in rodents until I moved to GSU in July, 2001.
Himmel NJ, Letcher JM, Sakurai A, Gray TR, Benson MN, Donaldson KJ, and Cox DN (2021) The evolution of cold nociception in drosophilid larvae and identification of a neural basis for cold acclimation. bioRxiv doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.01.04.425280
Himmel NJ, Letcher JM, Sakurai A, Gray TR, Benson MN, Cox DN (2019) Drosophila menthol sensitivity and the Precambrian origins of TRP-dependent chemosensation. Phil Trans R Soc B 374: 20190369. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2019.0369
Sakurai A, Katz PS (2019) Command or obey? Homologous neurons differ in hierarchical position for the generation of homologous behaviors. J Neurosci 39(33): 6460-6471. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3229-18.2019
Sakurai A (2018) Homology and variation in neural control of swimming in nudipleura mollusks. Jpn Soc Comp Physiol Biochem 35: 85-92. doi: 10.3330/hikakuseiriseika.35.85
Sakurai A, Katz PS (2017) Artificial synaptic rewiring demonstrates that distinct neural circuit configurations underlie homologous behaviors. Curr Biol 27(12): 1721-1734). doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.05.016
Gunaratne CA, Sakurai A, Katz PS (2017) Variations on a theme: Species differences in synaptic connectivity that do not predict roles in central pattern generators. J Neurophysiol 118(2): 1123-1132. doi: 10.1152/jn.00203.2017
Sakurai A, Tamvacakis AN, Katz PS (2016) Recruitment of polysynaptic connections underlies functional recovery of a neural circuit after lesion. eNeuro 3(4). pii: ENEURO.0056-16.2016. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0056-16.2016
Sakurai A, Katz PS (2016) The central pattern generator underlying swimming in Dendronotus iris: a simple half-center network oscillator with a twist. J Neurophysiol 116(4): 1728-1742. doi: 10.1152/jn.00150.2016
Sakurai A, Katz PS (2015) Phylogenetic and individual variation in gastropod central pattern generators. J Comp Physiol A 201(9): 829-839. doi: 10.1007/s00359-015-1007-6 Review.
Sakurai A, Tamvacakis AN, and Katz PS (2014) Hidden synaptic differences in a neural circuit underlie differential behavioral susceptibility to a neural injury. eLife 3, 202598. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02598
Sakurai A, Newcomb JM, Lillvis JL, and Katz PS (2011) Different roles for homologous interneurons in species exhibiting similar rhythmic behaviors. Curr Biol 21: 1036-1043. http://www.cell.com/current-biology/retrieve/pii/S0960982211004829
Sakurai A and Katz PS (2009) Functional recovery after lesion of a central pattern generator. J Neurosci 29: 13115-13125. http://www.jneurosci.org/cgi/content/abstract/29/42/13115
Sakurai A and Katz PS (2009) State-, timing-, and pattern-dependent neuromodulation of synaptic strength by a serotonergic interneuron. J Neusosci 29: 268-279. http://www.jneurosci.org/cgi/content/abstract/29/1/268