interview01 Ryuta Kawashima


How did JINS MEME's development begin? Ryuta Kawashima talks about the idea of developing the world's first device for intimately knowing one's mind and body.

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I’m Ryuta Kawashima, Director of Tohoku University’s Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer.

I mainly research visualization of the workings of the human brain. When President Tanaka came to our university, he said this wild thing about wanting to develop “glasses that make you smarter,” but we ended up talking about how glasses with sensors might be neat, and that putting sensors on your head in a natural way would be cool, so the discussion turned into JINS MEME.

Normally we directly measure the brain working, but unfortunately we can’t do that using glasses. We can, however, measure the head and eye movements, and from these I think it is possible to infer what the brain is doing. We believe actions like blink frequency and eye movement signal brain functions like concentration. To directly capture the brain’s actions, you need large measuring equipment. But if we can infer the brain’s workings from eye movements under everyday circumstances, then everyone will be able to continuously monitor their brain’s current activity online 24 hours a day. This would lead to big data analysis, and we hope that a lot of diverse information comes out of that.

Conditions that affect the nervous system like dementia disrupt how one walks, so we hope JINS MEME can help with the ultra-early diagnoses of such conditions.

I can think of two applications for education. One is that JINS MEME’s six-axis sensor and eye movement measurements can show teachers how well students understand the material. I also think people can tell whether they’re concentrating on their studies or not from eye movement measurements and blinking.

Imagine within the next few years, office workers would wear JINS MEME and take breaks before getting mentally worn out. Also, in a class at school, a teacher could use JINS MEME as a self-study tool and improve his or her teaching. That’s the kind of future I envision.

We advocate the concept of “smart aging”, where people continue living in circumstances that better suit them. With JINS MEME, which qualitatively and quantitatively measures mental and physical functions, I think we’ll be able to find hints about what we can do to live life in an even better state.

JINS MEME is a device for measuring eye and head movement, and these alone contain a huge amount of biological information. That’s why I expect we’ll find many new applications for JINS MEME if many people use it.

Ryuta Kawashima

Now Professor of Tohoku University's Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer, Kawashima completed his research at the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine in 1989 and earned his master's and doctorate degree in medicine. He has served as a visiting fellow at the Karolinska Institutet (Kingdom of Sweden), a professor at the Tohoku University New Industry Creation Hatchery Center, a professor at Tohoku University's Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer and the Director of the Smart Aging International Research Center (also part of Tohoku University's Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer), and has been in his current position since 2014. Kawashima's research subjects are brain function imaging and brain function development.

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