How does individuality emerge? Individual genomic differences (personal characteristics) form the basis, but the manifestation of individuality varies according to upbringing, lifestyle and other environmental factors. This is because of the epigenetics, a mechanism that changes the way of how genes work in response to various factors in environment. We see individuality in mental functions, such as cognitive faculties and personality, depending on the function of the cerebral nervous system, but we lack a clear understanding of the neural basis or the genetic/environmental factors involved. In recent years, however, we have gained access to “big data,” including human brain imaging data, data from observation of animal behavior, and neural activity data, facilitating variety of multivariate analyses. We now have an excellent opportunity to undertake research on individuality. In this innovative/interdisciplinary project, we aim to understand the emergence of individuality by elucidating diversity in brain development and evolution.
Creation of a new discipline that integrates research fields such as neural development, neurogenesis, developmental brain science, innovative tools, big data, and mathematical models, has a potential to develop significantly in ways that could have a broad and powerful impact on related disciplines, such as medicine, informatics, education and humanities. We plan to promote this activity by establishing an international data-sharing platform. We believe the virtual “aggregation of knowledge” resulting from the creation of this new discipline has the potential to contribute significantly to international society. Moreover, by elucidating the neural basis and molecular mechanisms underlying the emergence of individuality, this research could facilitate effective utilization of our scientific understanding of diverse forms of individuality within society. Because it is important for our society to deal with scientific knowledge relating to individuality with caution, we intend to examine the ethical, society, and legal issues associated with the dissemination and utilization of scientific information regarding individuality and to provide a basis for the formation of a social consensus.