Laboratory for Symbolic Cognitive Development | RIKEN BDR

Laboratory for Symbolic Cognitive Development

Team Leader

Atsushi IrikiD.D.S., Ph.D., D.M.Sc.

Photo of principal investigator

  • Location:Kobe / MI R&D Center Building
  • E-mail:atsushi.iriki[at]riken.jpPlease replace [at] with @.

We aim to find out evolutionary and neurobiological mechanisms that lead human mind to emerge in the primate brain to subserve modern civilized societies.

Research Summary

We aim to find out evolutionary and neurobiological mechanisms that lead human mind to emerge in the primate brain that subserves our modern civilized societies. Utilizing cutting-edge molecular genetic, functional imaging, and complexity mathematics technologies, we will pursuit fundamental principles of how the human mind emerges through interactions of biological matters, and try to develop and implement quantitative evaluation methods for the length of its dynamical transitions from earlylife through aging processes, both in human and non-human primates, that should eventually contribute to foster human healthy and sound societies.

Concretely, we try to uncover evolutionary precursors of human higher cognitive functions grounded onto bodily morphologies and patterns of structured physical actions, based on behavioral and neurophysiological analyses on non-human primates, which were trained to use tools and other hightech apparatuses. Further, we will elucidate neurobiological mechanisms of evolutionary as well as developmental processes that give rise to human symbolic cognitive functions subserving inference, language, metaphysical thoughts, sef-consciousness, etc. that characterize human intelligence, which will be considered through the viewpoint of “mind-body interactions”, by reexamining the dynamical functional networks among brain and multiple internal organs, and immune systems in particular.

We also attempt to identify “gut-brain axis” contributing to regulatory mechanisms of early-life behavioral development of non-human primates in the wild-life habitat that using tools for foraging, to understand the functional relationships among mind, body and environment, through which we eventually try to establish methods to quantify its life-long transition for objective evaluation of dynamical social interaction mechanisms subserving such phenomena.

Research Theme

  • Dynamical analyses of interactions among brain and multiple internal organ networks under the view of mind-body interactions.
  • Mechanisms of primate brain evolution through the theory of "Triadic Niche-Construction" (interactions among brain, cognitive behavior, and environment).
  • Principle of higher mental functions including self-consciousness to be elucidated through functional and structural brain imaging.

Main Publications List

  • Tia B, Takemi M, Kosugi A, et al.
    Cortical control of object-specific grasp relies on adjustments of both activity and effective connectivity: a common marmoset study.
    Journal of Physiology (London) 595. 7203-7221 (2017). doi: 10.1113/JP274629
  • Yamazaki Y, Kawarai S, Morita H, et al.
    Faecal transplantation for the treatment of Clostridium difficile infection in a marmoset.
    BMC Veterinary Research 13. 150 (2017). doi: 10.1186/s12917-017-1070-z
  • Yamazaki Y, Hikishima K, Saiki M, et al.
    Neural changes in the primate brain that illustrate the evolution of complex motor skills.
    Scientific Reports 6. 31804 (2016). doi: 10.1038/srep31084
  • Hihara S, Taoka M, Tanaka M, Iriki A.
    Visual responsiveness of the neurons in secondary somatosensory area and its surrounding parietal opperculum regions of awake macaque monkeys.
    Cerebral Cortex 25. 4535-4550 (2015). doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhv095
  • Hashimoto T, Kitajo K, Kajihara T, et al.
    Neural correlates of electrointestinography: insular activity modulated by signals recorded from the abdominal surface.
    Neuroscience 289. 1-8 (2015). doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2014.12.057
  • Pfenning AR, Hara E, Whitney O, et al.
    Convergent transcriptional specializations in the brains of humans and song learning birds.
    Science 346. 6215 (2014). doi: 10.1126/science.1256846
  • Ferrari PF, Tramacere A, Simpson EA, Iriki A.
    Mirror neurons through the lens of epigenetics.
    Trends in Cognitive Sciences 17. 450-457 (2013). doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2013.07.003
  • Yoshida K, Saito N, Iriki A, Isoda M.
    Social error monitoring in macaque frontal cortex.
    Nature Neuroscience 15. 1307-1312 (2012). doi: 10.1038/nn.3180
  • Iriki A, Taoka M.
    Triadic (ecological, neural, cognitive) niche construction: a scenario of human brain evolution extrapolating tool use and language from the control of reaching actions.
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B Biological Science 367. 10-23 (2012). doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0190
  • Quallo MM, Price CJ, Ueno K, et al.
    Gray and white matter changes associated with tool-use learning in macaque monkeys.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106. 18379-84 (2009). doi: 10.1073/pnas.0909751106


Atsushi IrikiTeam Leader atsushi.iriki[at] CV
Yumiko YamazakiDeputy Team Leader
Rafael Bretas VieiraResearch Scientist
Yoko TomonagaTechnical Staff I
Yoshiko HiranoAssistant

*:concurrent / Please replace [at] with @.