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RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research Laboratory for Symbolic Cognitive Development

Team Leader: Atsushi Iriki (D.D.S., Ph.D., D.M.Sc.)

Research Summary

Atsushi  Iriki(D.D.S., Ph.D., D.M.Sc.)

We try to uncover evolutionary precursors of human higher cognitive functions grounded onto physical morphologies and patterns of structured bodily actions, based on behavioral and neurophysiological analyses on chronic macaque monkeys, which were trained to use tools and other high-tech apparatus. By sharing these machineries among individuals, we extrapolate the mechanisms to constitute bases of communicatory functions, and eventually understand neural mechanism to form intellectual and alstristic society to comprise humanistic civilization environment. Further, we are aiming at elucidating neurobiological mechanisms, through the development of Marmoset experimental models, of evolutionary as well as developmental processes that give rise to symbolic cognitive functions subserving inference, metaphysical thoughts, etc. that characterize human intelligence.

Main Research Fields

  • Biological Sciences

Related Research Fields

  • Biology


  • sociality development
  • Primate evolution
  • cerebrophysiology
  • niche contruction
  • self-consciousness

Selected Publications

  • 1.Yamazaki Y, Hikishima K, Saiki M, Inada M, Sasaki E, Lemon R, Price C, Okano H, and Iriki A.:
    "Neural changes in the primate brain that illustrate the evolution of complex motor skills.",
    Sci Rep, 6, 31804 (2016)
  • 2.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"
    Cereb Cortex, 25, 4535-4550.(2015)
  • 3.Hashikawa T, Nakatomi R, Iriki A.:
    "Current models of the marmoset brain"
    Neurosci Res, 93,116-127.(2015)
  • 4.Hashimoto T, Kitajo K, Kajihara T, Ueno K, Suzuki C, Asamizuya T, Iriki A.:
    "Neural correlates of electrointestinography: insular activity modulated by signals recorded from the abdominal surface."
    Neuroscience, 289, 1-8.(2015)
  • 5.Pfenning AR, Hara E, Whitney O, Rivas MV, Wang R, Roulhac P, Howard JT, Wirthli M, Lovell PV,
    Ganapathy G, Mouncastle J, Moseley MA, Thompson JW, Soderblom EJ, Iriki A, Kato M, Gilbert
    MTP, Zhang G, Bakken T, Bongaarts A, Bernard A, Lein E, Mello CV, Hartemink AJ, Jarvis ED.:
    "Convergent transcriptional specializations in the brains of humans and song learning birds."
    Science, 346, no. 6215, doi: 10.1126/science.1256846.(2014)
  • 6.Ferrari PF, Tramacere A, Simpson EA, Iriki A.:
    "Mirror neurons through the lens of epigenetics."
    Tr Cogn Sci, 17, 450-457.(2013)
  • 7.Yoshida K, Saito N, Iriki A, and Isoda M.:
    "Social error monitoring in macaque frontal cortex."
    Nat Neurosci (2012)
  • 8.Iriki A, and 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."
    Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 367(1585), 10-23 (2012)
  • 9.Quallo MM, Price CJ, Ueno K, Asamizuya T, Cheng K, Lemon RN, and Iriki A.:
    "Gray and white matter changes associated with tool-use learning in macaque monkeys."
    Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 106, 18379-84 (2009)
  • 10.Iriki A.:
    "The neural origins and implications of imitation, mirror neurons and tool use."
    Curr Opin Neurobiol, 16(6), 660-7 (2006)

Related Links

Lab Members

Principal investigator

Atsushi Iriki
Team Leader

Core members

Yumiko Yamazaki
Deputy Team Leader
Rafael Bretas Vieira
Research Scientist
Banty Tia
Research Scientist
Yoko Tomonaga
Technical Staff I
Mitsuyo Nobukawa

Contact Information

MI R&D Center Building
6-7-3 Minatojima-minamimachi, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0047
Tel: +81-(0)78-304-7122
Fax: +81-(0)78-304-7123
Email: Email: atsushi.iriki [at] riken.jp