Japanese macaques are well known for washing potatoes, but for many years it was thought impossible to use tools like chimpanzees.It was Dr. Atsushi Iriki of RIKEN who shattered such common sense.Japanese macaques can use tools too!made it clear.

At the time of the paper's publication in 1996, some people called it "iriki magic."A neurobiological achievement was the discovery of changes in the parietal lobe of the cerebrum, which is thought to have developed through the use of language and symbols in humans.This is where the secret demystification of the evolution of human intelligence begins.
Professor Iriki, who is trying to open up a new academic field beyond cognitive neuroscience (neurobiology), will learn from the current state of research, choosing a course in high school that leads to the present, and career development after entering university. We listened, and even heard bold hypotheses about the future of human intelligence.


[My course selection, research trajectory] Don't forget your original intention


 I became interested in science when I was in the second and third grades of elementary school when I went to New York with my father to study abroad.At that time, the United States was focusing on cultivating world leaders, and schools were thoroughly engaged in scientific enlightenment activities.Even though I was a child, I was strongly shocked by the difference from Japanese education at the time.

 After returning to Japan, I liked history and was told by my elementary school teacher that I would be suitable for a liberal arts course. , was "What am I?"That didn't change when I chose my course at university, and I wanted to explore it scientifically.The conclusion I came to at that time was, ``Language is what characterizes humans.I went on to study dentistry at Tokyo Medical and Dental University.

 Before I started full-scale research activities at university, I was absorbed in various activities other than studying, including archery, which I started when I was young.In junior high school I created my own hobby club, in high school bodybuilding, and in my first year at university I became obsessed with windsurfing, and started up circles for each of them.I always tried to do what I wanted to do.

 However, in my second year at university, I immerse myself in research by participating in experimental research related to basic research on my own in between classes and practical training.I wanted to elucidate the language that characterizes humans, the mouth that produces it, and the brain mechanisms that drive speech.At the time, however, such research was considered beyond the reach of natural science.

 The research theme I chose for the time being was the physiology of the mouth, especially pain sensation.That was my undergraduate days, but now that I think about it, I was precocious. I published 21 original papers and review articles, all in English.After entering graduate school, I researched the rhythm of jaw movements, particularly the mechanism of mastication, and discovered that there is a "rhythm generator" in the brainstem that controls the rhythmic movement of the jaw for mastication.Later, we also clarified that the plasticity of the cerebral cortex is important for learning skillful lip movements.

 After completing graduate school, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher at an American university, where I discovered the mechanism of long-term potentiation (LTP) of memory in the cerebral cortex.It was strongly criticized at the time of its publication, but it is now an established theory.After returning to Japan, I started researching tool use in monkeys as part of my research on the neural mechanisms of learning at a university where I was assigned as a lecturer.He discovered that Japanese macaques can also use tools that were previously thought to be only possible for chimpanzees.This paper, too, was not easily accepted when it was first published, but is now an established theory.

 By the way, the cranial nerve mechanisms related to tool use and those of language functions have many things in common, although the nature of the information handled and the organs of input and output are different.In addition, the brain regions responsible for the essential functions of the two overlap, and recently, it has been reported that there is a specific functional interaction.There is no doubt that in the process of evolution, both have co-evolved while promoting each other.

 If so, my research up to this point may have been far from the language research that I aimed for in high school, but at this point, I can say that I have finally begun to concentrate on one.


[Research now and in the future] Solving three mysteries in brain evolution

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