Outline▷ update

"Grant‐in‐Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas
(Research in a proposed research area)"
Area ID4502 Interdisciplinary Area
Area NameThe Science of Mental Time: Investigation into the past, present and future
Area DirectorShigeru Kitazawa (Prof., Grad. Sch. of Frontier Biosciences, Osaka Univ.)
Area Period2013-2017
Shigeru Kitazawa
Shigeru Kitazawa

Purpose of the Research Project

We refer to the awareness of time, over the past, present and future, as the “mental time”. The mental time is a cognitive function that has been evolved in humans in particular. We raise three evidences as follows. 1) We ask a person what date it is today in diagnosing dementia. The awareness of the date is essential for humans, but not for other animals. 2) Most languages have exact tenses. This provides another clear evidence for our being always aware of the past, present, and future. 3) We are afraid of the death, the end of the future. Even a chimpanzee, on the other hand, showed no sign of fear into the future, even when the animal was severely disabled.

Where does the mental time, the human-specific awareness of time, come from? In this research project, we aim at constructing a new research area “the science of the mental time”, through active collaborations across neuroscientists, psychologists, clinical neurologists, linguists, philosophers, and comparative ethologists.

Content of the Research Project

The project consists of 6 sub-projects. Sub-projects A01-A03 examine neural basis of the mental “present” (A01), “past” (A02), and “future” (A03) by applying methods of neuroscience to the human and other animals. In A04, pathological conditions of the mental time would be investigated. In addition, we approach the mental time from the view points of the linguistics and philosophy (B01) and the comparative cognitive science (C01).

picture Linguistics & Philosophy Past Present Future Pathological conditions Comparative Ethology

Expected Research Achievements and Scientific Significance

We raise 3 research achievements expected from our collaborative researches.

  • 1) We draw the map of the mental time in the brain, by combining the theory of the tense in linguistics with neuroscience, and clinical neuropsychology.
  • 2) We develop methods for manipulating the mental time through cutting-edge studies using lab animals, and initiate clinical applications. By applying the methods, we hope to ameliorate symptoms in dementia with impairments in memory consolidation of the “past”, PTSD with obsessions to the “past”, and depression without any hope into the “future”.
  • 3) We reveal the process of evolution of the mental time by combining comparative ethology with psychology, neuroscience, and the linguistics. We study phylogeny of the mental time by comparing humans with rodents, macaques, and chimpanzees, and its ontogeny by investigating development through infancy and childhood, and into adulthood.


  • 文部科学省へのリンク


The Science of Mental Time
Address: 1-3 Yamadaoka, Suita, Osaka, 565-0871 Japan
Dynamic Brain Network Laboratory,
Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences,
Osaka University
Tel: 06-6879-4431
Fax: 06-6879-4437