The Division of Biology and Biological Engineering at Caltech



Sensory representation and detection mechanisms of gut osmolality change
Congratulations, Takako and Tongtong. Their work has been published in Nature. This study identified the site and mechanisms of gut osmolality sensing for thirst regulation. We provide another piece of data to understand how our body and brain work together to maintain internal environment.

Caltech News| How Gut Neurons Communicate with the Brain to Control Thirst

The New York Times | Your Body’s Thirst Messenger Is in an Unexpected Place

NPR science | The brain science behind deciding to drink when you're thirsty is pretty complicated

Niigata University News

Elena Galofaro Bansh
Credit: Elena Galofaro Bansh

Oka Lab Celebrates Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving at the Oka household is now an annual tradition! Yuki and Mari again graciously hosted the lab at their home for a fabulous meal!

Thanksgiving 1

Oka Lab Receives New Funding from NIH and the Caltech Heritage Medical Institute
We appreciate essential new supports from NIH and the Caltech Heritage Medical Institute. Yuki is now appointed as an investigator of HMRI.

Another Graduate from the Oka Lab -Takako Yamamoto
Congratulations to Takako for her new position at Niigata University in Japan as an Assistant Professor! She is a master of surgery and completed a very nice study about peripheral sensory signaling. We are sad to see her leave, but could not be more excited for her in pursuing her newest chapter.
   Yuki and TakakoTakako and Tongtong    
    Takako Farewell 1Takako farewell 2

A New PI from the Oka Lab - Prof. Allan-Hermann Pool
Congratulations to Allan for becoming a new PI! Allan will open his laboratory at UT Southwestern this November. He will use transcriptomic and circuit technologies to uncover the mechanisms behind pain and analgesia! Allan will be sorely missed, but we could not be more excited for him and wish him the best of luck in his newest endeavor!

Yuki and Allan 2021

Oka Lab Malibu Beach Trip
After a long lockdown period, we were finally able to head out to Malibu for famous lobster rolls and a day of beach games!

Malibu Group PicMalibu Lobster Rolls

Zhe Yang Receives Postdoc Scholarship
Congrats to Zhe for receiving Caltech divisional postdoctoral scholarship awards! We appreciate the generous support from the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering here at Caltech!

All Things Considered - NPR News Feature
Yuki joins reporter Jon Hamilton on popular NPR news series, All Things Considered, to discuss Allan and Tongtong's findings from their recent publication in Nature, The cellular basis of distinct thirst modalities. Read the transcript or have a listen by clicking the image below!

NPR Feature Image
Krisanapong Detraphiphat/Getty Images

Caltech News Feature
Yuki dicusses Allan and Tongtong's recent Nature publication, The cellular basis of distinct thirst modalities, in a feature in Caltech news. Click the link below to read the full article!

Caltech News - The Brain Quenches Thirst in Different Ways

The cellular basis of distinct thirst modalities
Allan and Tongtong's paper in collaboration with UC Berkeley is now published in Nature. Congratulations to them both! This paper demonstrates that thirst is not a simple perception. Rather, different types of thirst are mediated by unique neuron classes in the brain.
The cellular basis of distinct thirst modalities
The cellular basis of distinct thirst modalitiescellular basis of distinct thirst modalities figure 1

Oka Lab Celebration
2020 has been challenging and anxious year to say the least, but despite this, many of our lab members have accomplished amazing things within the past few months. Unfortunately with the pandemic, we weren't able to meet up for each new accomplishment until recently. With this, we will soon say farewell to one of our first graduate students to join our lab, Sangjun Lee, and our long time lab manager, Brittany Ho. We celebrate Yameng Zhang joining our lab, as well as Allan's work being accepted for publication! Stay tuned to find out more details! Glad to see everyone from Oka Lab is thriving!

Sangjun's Successful Defense
After years of hard work, Sangjun has successfully defended his thesis work unveiling the neural basis of sodium appetite. Congratulations Dr. Sangjun Lee!

Yuki's Tenure Granted
Congratulations to Prof. Oka for being promoted to a full professor! The lab will work even harder to contribute to neuroscience!

Sloan Research Fellow
Congratulations to the lab for winning the Sloan Research Fellowship!

Neural Control and Modulation of Thirst, Sodium, Appetite, and Hunger

Vinny and Sangjun's review has been published in Cell - click the figure below to learn more!

Oka Lab Celebrates Thanksgiving!
Yuki hosted a Thanksgiving gathering at his home, with him and his wife Mari providing us with a spectacular meal! One for the books!

NYSCF - Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Award

Yuki recieved 1.5 million in funding from the New York Stem Cell Foundation! This award is given every 5 years and to only 3 early career  neuroscience researchers internationally.

NYSCF | NYSCF Announces 2019 Class of NYSCF - Robertson Investigators

Caltech | Oka Recieves Grant to Study Innante Brain Circuits

Multimodal Analysis of Cell Types in a Hypothalmic Node Controlling Social Behavior

Our collaboration paper has been published in Cell! This work was done in David Anderson's lab at Caltech.

Caltech 2019 Graduation

A few of our students received their degrees this past Friday! Congrats to Vinny Augustine, Ph.D., Sangjun Lee, M.S., and Madelyn Stroder, B.S.! Vinny will be starting his own lab at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego in August and Madelyn will be beginning medical school at the University of Missouri this fall. Sangjun will be sticking with us to finish up his Ph.D. We couldn't be more proud!

Congrats Vinny and Sangjun!     Congrats Madelyn!

Best Thesis Award in the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering

Vinny has been awarded the Lawrence L. and Audrey W. Ferguson Prize for his thesis work on the neural architecture underlying thirst regulation. Congratulations Vinny!

Congrats Vinny!

Temporally and spatially distinct thirst satiation signals

Vinny's and Haruka's work has been published in Neuron! Check out the articles below to learn more.

Caltech | Being Refreshed Is Not The Same As Being Hydrated

Scientific American | Does Thirst Start in the Mouth or the Gut?

The New York Times | Why Gulping Down a Cold Drink Feels So Rewarding


Chemosensory modulation of neural circuits for sodium appetite

Sangjun's work has been published in Nature! Check out the links below to learn more.

Caltech | The Salt-Craving Neurons

NPR | Blech! Brain Science Explains Why You're Not Thirsty For Salt Water

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Neural populations for maintaining body fluid balance
Takako's review paper has been published in Current Opinion in Neurobiology!

Della Martin Fellowship in Mental Illness
Dr. Takako Ichiki-Yamamoto was awarded the Della Martin Fellowship in Mental Illness!

Peripheral and central nutrient sensing underlying appetite regulation
Vinny's review paper has been published in Trends in Neurosciences!

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2018 Young Investigator Award
Congratulations to Yuki on being awarded the 2018 Young Investigator Award for emerging leaders in the field of Gustation or Oral Chemosensation!

Hierarchical neural architecture underlying thirst regulation
Vinny's work has been published in Nature! Check out the links below to learn more.

Caltech | Mapping the Neural Circuit Governing Thirst

The New York Times | You Get Thirsty and Drink. How Does Your Brain Signal You've Had Enough?

NIH News | Scientistc show how thte brain may be wired for drinking fluids

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The New York Times

Vinny successfully completed his pre-defense!
Congratulations Vinny!

congrats vinny

The cellular mechanisms for water detection in the mammalian taste system

Dhruv's work has been published in Nature Neuroscience! Check out the links below to learn more.

Caltech | Sour Taste Cells Detect Water

Science News | Tongues 'taste' water by sensing sour

Science | Scientists discover a sixth sense on the tongue-for water


Uehara Foundation Fellowship
Our postdocs, Dr. Takako Ichiki-Yamamoto and Dr. Haruka Ebisu, were both awarded the Uehara Foundation Fellowship!

Della Martin Fellowship in Mental Illness
Dr. Sertan Kutal Gokce was awarded the Della Martin Fellowship in Mental Illness!

Sangjun passed his candidacy exam!
Congratulations Sangjun!

congrats sangjun

McKnight Scholar Award
Yuki has been selected among six neuroscientists to recieve the 2016 McKnight Scholar Award!

Okawa Foundation Grant Award
Yuki has received The Okawa Foundation for Information and Telecommunications Research Grant!

Edward Mallinckrodt, JR Foundation Grant
Yuki received the Edward Mallinckrodt, JR Foundation Grant!

Searle Scholar
Yuki has been named a 2015 Searle Scholar!

Thirst driving and supressing signals encoded by distinct neural populations in the brain
Yuki's work has been published in Nature! The paper describes mind-controlling experiments using optogenetics.

The Scientist | Thirst Neurons Found


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