Studying the Mind From All Aspects
- Kenkichi Takase
- Professor, Faculty of Letters, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization: Developmental Biopsychology and Clinical Developmental Psychology
Flattering myself as a two-way player
My fields of expertise are developmental biopsychology and clinical developmental psychology. Developmental biopsychology is the study of the biological basis of mind development. Clinical developmental psychology is a field of study which seeks to provide the necessary support through a close relationship with human development, growth, and aging. When describing my fields of expertise to students, I combine these two fields and explain that my specialty is developmental psychology.
As a research theme of developmental biopsychology, I am investigating mechanisms of how mental gender differences occur during the development process and causes of neuropsychiatric disorders with gender differences in terms of prevalence. Furthermore, as a research theme of clinical developmental psychology, I am conducting research on isolation and loneliness among young people, guardians, and the elderly, and am developing a psychological support system to eliminate isolation and loneliness. I had been and am not good at mastering a single pursuit. Currently, I am conducting two different types of research: basic research in developmental biopsychology, which pursues principles, and applied research in clinical developmental psychology, which aims for implementation in society. Stated in a flattering manner, I am like a two-way player, while putting more bluntly, I conduct research from an uncertain position. In addition, I have started theoretical study recently, so I am now a three-way player.
When I was a child, I was often told that I am restless. I spent many days in self-reflection on my inability to master a single pursuit and found myself already being in my mid-40s. In my 30s, I often felt disgusted and disappointed in regard to this aspect of my personality. However, I have recently become able to accept how I am restless and easily give up, and I am very satisfied with my current ability to study a wide range of psychological themes. I am not sure what kind of background the readers of this article may have, but I would like to take this opportunity to introduce some of the various aspects of psychology which I have encountered through my research.
Using genetically modified mice to clarify the causes of neuropsychiatric disorders with gender differences in terms of prevalence
By mutating specific genes, researchers create genetically modified mice for use as models that show symptoms similar to neuropsychiatric disorders. The first step is to consider which genetically modified mice to use and what kind of behavioral experiments to conduct according to the research purpose. For example, depression is a neuropsychiatric disorder that is twice as prevalent in women as in men. Behavioral experiments and neurobiological analysis of mice with genetic mutations associated with depression will allow us to explore the pathophysiology of this illness in detail. In order to measure depression-related behavioral traits in mice, I perform a forced swim test, which is used to analyze a depressed mood. I also analyze the social behavior of mice in order to check for changes in their interactions with other mice. Neurobiological analysis uses immunostaining and molecular biological techniques on sections of brain tissue. The results of these tests provide an important source of information for understanding the pathophysiology of depression. By using these research methods, I recently discovered that immune-related substances are assumed to be the cause of depression. I am also using similar methods to clarify the causes of autism spectrum disorder, which is four times more prevalent in boys. Neuropsychiatric disorders inflict great distress to patients and their families, and also pose a major economic burden to the family. By using genetically modified mice, it is possible to obtain valuable information for understanding the causes and onset mechanisms of diseases, and lay the foundation for the prevention of the disease and the development of treatment methods. These kinds of findings have great social significance. The approach of using genetically modified mice to study mental state may sound new, but behavioral experiments using animals are actually classic methods that have been used since the early days of psychology. For this reason, researchers in the same industry may view my research as being fairly classical.
Using generative AI to build a psychological support system
As discussed above, basic research in developmental biopsychology uses classical methods. On the other hand, in the case of empirical research in clinical developmental psychology aiming for social implementation, researchers incorporate the latest technology in order to develop an even more effective psychological support system. One of the latest technologies is ChatGPT, which is a type a generative AI. ChatGPT is a large-scale natural language processing model developed by OpenAI that enables natural text generation and response through user interaction. In addition, ChatGPT learns information about various topics and questions and uses that knowledge to guide conversations with users. When interacting with users, a main feature of ChatGPT is how it generates answers in a natural style by considering context and the preceding／succeeding sentences. This technology can be used for various purposes. Examples include answering general questions and providing related information, summarizing documents, suggesting improvements to writing, and generating creative writing. It can also be applied to applications that require interactive dialogue and interfaces, such as education, customer support, and automated chatbots. ChatGPT is based on a large amount of training data and high-performance neural networks. This achieves high accuracy in generating natural sentences and comprehending meaning. Focusing on the usefulness of ChatGPT, I started empirical research on using ChatGPT to realize the well-being of mothers. This research focuses on solving problems and exchanging information on child-rearing for mothers who are raising children (a mother's community). I use ChatGPT as the facilitator of this mother's community, positioning the generative AI as counselor who provides useful advice to mothers during consultations on child-rearing. However, since mothers feel uneasy when using ChatGPT alone, childcare workers not working at nursery schools participate in each community and handle consultations that cannot be covered by ChatGPT functions. These childcare workers have retired from on-site work due to personal circumstances; however, they can fully utilize their abilities when provided with online activities in which they can participate from home. In this way, in addition to utilizing the cutting-edge technology of generative AI, by providing an online platform that enables latent human resources in society to fulfill an active role, I am working to build an evidence-based childcare environment which demonstrates effectiveness in reducing mother's anxiety about childcare and raising awareness of social participation among those childcare workers . In this empirical research, I will use standardized psychometric scales to quantitatively examine the changes in the psychological state of mothers during childcare before and after using the service, as well as the improvement in the professionalism of childcare teachers who have returned to work. In today's society, there are many systems which claim to offer psychological support. Still, the effectiveness of these systems has not yet been verified. By incorporating a scientific perspective and accumulating evidence, I would like to promote the development and spread of a safe psychological support system that offers peace of mind.
The fun of life given to me by my flaws
Through the methods discussed above, I have been able to develop unprecedented psychological research by not only using classical psychological methods such as mouse behavior experiments, but also by introducing cutting-edge technologies such as generative AI. While appreciating knowledge accumulated by other researchers thus far, I feel free to incorporate newly emerging technologies, pursue new discoveries and innovations, and go back and forth between classical and cutting-edge methods, as well as between the fundamentals and applications of psychological research. I cannot foresee where my journey of studying the mind from all aspects will lead. All I know is that this journey will be exceedingly enjoyable, as I will be blessed with new encounters even while cherishing certain aspects that remain the same in the midst of an ever-changing society. Being restless and easily giving up will undoubtedly make the rest of my life so much fun.
 Kikuchi M, Takase K*, Hayakawa M, Hayakawa H, Tominaga SI, Ohmori T. Altered behavior in mice overexpressing soluble ST2. Molecular brain 13 (1) 74. *corresponding author. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32393354/
Kenkichi Takase／Professor, Faculty of Letters, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization: Developmental Biopsychology and Clinical Developmental Psychology
Kenkichi Takase was born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1978. He graduated from the College of Letters, Ritsumeikan University in 2002. He completed the Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Medicine, Yokohama City University in 2004. He earned a PhD (behavioral science) from the Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences, the University of Tsukuba in 2010. After serving as an Assistant in the School of Medicine, Yokohama City University, a Full-Time Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine, Toho University, and a Professor in the School of Medicine, Jichi Medical University, he assumed his current position in 2022.
He has served as Secretary of the Young Academy of Japan (under the Science Council of Japan) and as Director of the Japanese Psychological Association. He also works as a Deputy Project Leader in the “Metacare City Co-Creation Base for Eliminating Difficulty in Young People’s Lives and Realizing High Well-Being,” which is part of the Program on Open Innovation Platform for Industry-academia Co-Creation (COI-NEXT), and strives to construct psychological support systems through virtual space. Furthermore, he conducts citizen science research as a Visiting Researcher in the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy (operated by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology).