Susumu Tonegawa

Susumu Tonegawa

Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience; Director, RIKEN-MIT Laboratory for Neural Circuit Genetics

Susumu Tonegawa investigates the biological underpinnings of learning and memory in rodents.

Neuroscience Complex


Mackenzie Abbott



Assistant Phone


  • PhD, 1968, University of California, San Diego
  • BS, 1963, Chemistry, Kyoto University

Research Summary

We are interested in the molecular, cellular and neural circuit mechanisms underlying learning and memory in rodents. We generate genetically engineered mice, and analyze them through multiple methods including molecular and cellular biology, electrophysiology, microscopic imaging, optogenetic engineering, and behavioral studies. Ultimately, we aim to detect the effects of our manipulations at multiple levels in the brain — deducing which behaviors or cognitions are causally linked to specific processes and events taking place at the molecular, cellular, and neuronal circuit levels.


  • The Nobel Foundation, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1987
  • Albert and Mary Lasker Award in Basic Research, 1987
  • National Academy of Sciences, Member, 1986

Key Publications

  1. Antagonistic negative and positive neurons of the basolateral amygdala. Kim, J, Pignatelli, M, Xu, S, Itohara, S, Tonegawa, S. 2016. Nat Neurosci 19, 1636-1646.
    doi: 10.1038/nn.4414PMID:27749826
  2. Memory retrieval by activating engram cells in mouse models of early Alzheimer's disease. Roy, DS, Arons, A, Mitchell, TI, Pignatelli, M, Ryan, TJ, Tonegawa, S. 2016. Nature 531, 508-12.
    doi: 10.1038/nature17172PMID:26982728
  3. Optogenetic stimulation of a hippocampal engram activates fear memory recall. Liu, X, Ramirez, S, Pang, PT, Puryear, CB, Govindarajan, A, Deisseroth, K, Tonegawa, S. 2012. Nature 484, 381-5.
    doi: 10.1038/nature11028PMID:22441246
  4. A tissue-specific transcription enhancer element is located in the major intron of a rearranged immunoglobulin heavy chain gene. Gillies, SD, Morrison, SL, Oi, VT, Tonegawa, S. 1983. Cell 33, 717-28.
    doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(83)90014-4PMID:6409417
  5. Somatic generation of antibody diversity. Tonegawa, S. 1983. Nature 302, 575-81.
    doi: 10.1038/302575a0PMID:6300689

Recent Publications

  1. Brain-wide mapping reveals that engrams for a single memory are distributed across multiple brain regions. Roy, DS, Park, YG, Kim, ME, Zhang, Y, Ogawa, SK, DiNapoli, N, Gu, X, Cho, JH, Choi, H, Kamentsky, L et al.. 2022. Nat Commun 13, 1799.
    doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-29384-4PMID:35379803
  2. Reply to Lehr and Stöber: What's in a name? On the distinction between temporal coding and internally driven activity. MacDonald, CJ, Tonegawa, S. 2021. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 118, .
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.2112026118PMID:34518215
  3. Crucial role for CA2 inputs in the sequential organization of CA1 time cells supporting memory. MacDonald, CJ, Tonegawa, S. 2021. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 118, .
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.2020698118PMID:33431691
  4. Author Correction: Hippocampal neurons represent events as transferable units of experience. Sun, C, Yang, W, Martin, J, Tonegawa, S. 2021. Nat Neurosci 24, 449-450.
    doi: 10.1038/s41593-020-00790-5PMID:33402747
  5. Differential attentional control mechanisms by two distinct noradrenergic coeruleo-frontal cortical pathways. Bari, A, Xu, S, Pignatelli, M, Takeuchi, D, Feng, J, Li, Y, Tonegawa, S. 2020. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 117, 29080-29089.
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.2015635117PMID:33139568
  6. Hippocampal neurons represent events as transferable units of experience. Sun, C, Yang, W, Martin, J, Tonegawa, S. 2020. Nat Neurosci 23, 651-663.
    doi: 10.1038/s41593-020-0614-xPMID:32251386
  7. Amygdala Reward Neurons Form and Store Fear Extinction Memory. Zhang, X, Kim, J, Tonegawa, S. 2020. Neuron 105, 1077-1093.e7.
    doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.12.025PMID:31952856
  8. Memory engrams: Recalling the past and imagining the future. Josselyn, SA, Tonegawa, S. 2020. Science 367, .
    doi: 10.1126/science.aaw4325PMID:31896692
  9. Engram Cell Excitability State Determines the Efficacy of Memory Retrieval. Pignatelli, M, Ryan, TJ, Roy, DS, Lovett, C, Smith, LM, Muralidhar, S, Tonegawa, S. 2019. Neuron 101, 274-284.e5.
    doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.11.029PMID:30551997
  10. Locus coeruleus input to hippocampal CA3 drives single-trial learning of a novel context. Wagatsuma, A, Okuyama, T, Sun, C, Smith, LM, Abe, K, Tonegawa, S. 2018. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 115, E310-E316.
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.1714082115PMID:29279390
More Publications




Photo credit: Webb Chapell