Representative Greeting

“Reconstruction of the Humanities Through Interpreting Affective Information” has been selected for the 2021 KAKENHI Grant-in-Aid for Transformative Research Areas (B) (2021-23).

Previous brain research in the humanities focused on identifying areas of the brain that function in relation to concepts specific to each academic discipline, such as ethical conflict and economic rationality. However, such research essentially aims to represent abstract concepts with physical structures of the brain, and although interesting, lacks the potential to greatly advance the fields of study.

The new research area “Reconstruction of the Humanities Through Interpreting Affective Information” proposes new models and concepts in the humanities that are centered upon affective information derived from brain activity. Through this approach, area members will conduct research that places emphasis on real-life applications, such as designing auctions and other economic systems to be optimized for the affective reactions of humans.

Area Representative
Junichi Chikazoe

Area Overview

Academic disciplines in the humanities, such as psychology, linguistics, economics, and aesthetics, construct models of mental processes based on observations and records of human behavior. When developing such models, it is crucial to understand the impact of affect on human behavior. However, models that directly incorporate affective information have been challenging to construct due to the difficulty of accurately measuring “how an individual feels”.

fMRI is a technique to measure the brain activity of living humans, known to be safe without concerns of radiation exposure. Due to recent advancements in analytical techniques using machine learning, it is now possible to estimate an individual's emotional state by observing their brain activity (Chikazoe et al., 2014; Pham et al., 2021). However, there are many technical difficulties in the analytical processes and few linguistic, economic, and aesthetic models have successfully incorporated affective information estimated from brain activity.

In this research area, Chikazoe (Araya Inc., National Institute for Physiological Sciences), an expert in fMRI research using machine learning, aims to construct a new academic framework that interprets language, economics, and art through the perspective of affect. He is assisted by Professor Daichi Mochihashi (Institute of Statistical Mathematics), who specializes in natural language processing; Professor Yasutora Watanabe (University of Tokyo), an expert in microeconomics; and Professor Tomohiro Ishizu (Kansai University), a specialist in aesthetic research.



Chikazoe group

Investigating the integrated calculation process of ambivalent value information using fMRI


Mochihashi Group

The neuroscience of literary arts that evoke affect


Watanabe Group

Estimating affective influences through econometric structural models


Ishizu Group

Cognitive neuroscience research on aesthetic experiences that step beyond pleasure/displeasure and their psychological effects