Mathematical Physics and Astrophysics

Toshiyuki Nakagaki

Biobehavioral Science Interpreted Using Mathematics and Physics

Toshiyuki Nakagaki , Professor

Research Institute for Electronic Science, Graduate School of Life Science (Department of Biological Sciences, School of Science)

High school : Toyotanishi High School (Aichi Prefecture)

Academic background : Graduate School of Human Informatics, Nagoya University

Research areas
Mathematical Physics, Cell Biology, Physical Ethology, Non-Linear Dynamics, Bioinformatics
Research keywords
Protist, Mathematical Model, Perception and Recognition, Algorithm, Mathematical Physics

Investigating Material Origins of Life Intelligence

How is intelligence created in living creatures? The mechanism of information processing specific to life systems has been a daunting problem that continues to be asked, gathering all the available knowledge from ancient Greece era until now. Trying to solve this problem as a basic academic discipline develops our self-understanding as humans. If we are able to grasp the information processing method that is specific to living creatures, it can lead to innovation to make machines equipped with interfaces that are more people-friendly.

With protists as our main subjects, we conduct experiments to evaluate the level of perception and recognition in living creatures. We are trying to investigate the mechanisms using mathematical physics. Using simple systems, we are investigating the biobehavior starting from laws of motion of objects. This is an exploration into the origin of life information processing. In our investigation, we are using theory, experiment and field observation in the fields of biology, mathematics, physics and information science.

My specific research topics include the following six subjects: (1) investigating basic algorithms for life intelligence from ameba to humans, (2) investigating design principles for people-friendly mechanical interfaces, (3) developing visualization techniques on the behavior and information processing stages of single-cell organisms, (4) studying the dynamics for diversity and flexibility of biobehavior, (5) optimizing the configuration and function by applying the use-and-disuse adaptation law of vital systems, and (6) studying the kinetic mechanism of biological motion using biorheology.

Protists we are using for experiments: (from left) Sarcodinian Amoeba Proteus, Ciliata Paramecium, Ciliata Tetrahymena, Plasmodium of Myxomycetes Physarum, Fruiting Body of Myxomycetes Physarum


What is the Relationship Between Materials and Single Cell Organisms, and Between Single Cell Organisms and Humans?

Living creatures including humans possess amazing abilities. This sophistication can be attributed to their long-time evolution. For example, a baseball player can run directly to the spot where a fly ball will land. The player seems to do it without difficulty, but we don’t know how he can find the exact spot. I don’t think the player solves the Newtonian law of motion to find the projectile path of the ball, so there must be some other way. What is this mechanism? How do living creatures process information? Let’s look at the protist which is a single cell organism. A single cell organism, which is a vital system, must process information in the way all living creatures do. It might be a very simple creature that will enable us to reach the very essence of living creatures. Based on this idea, we are investigating information processing focusing mostly on simpler living creatures. What level of difficult questions can they solve? What are the solutions? In addition, we investigating the characteristics of information processing which are common among living creatures, including humans, based on the research results of simple creatures. “Single cell organisms,” which shouldn’t be underestimated, will provide a lot of information for us.


Familiarizing Science as an Intellectual Entertainment!

Our research results are featured in many of the premiere scientific journals such as “Nature” and “Science,” which proves the quality of our research is really high. In addition, our research draws a lot of interest and is featured in TV, newspapers, magazines and other media in many counties, such as the USA, Germany, France, UK, and Italy. I won the Ig Nobel prize, which is a parody of the Nobel prize, twice in 2008 and 2010, and received a Baku Nobel prize hosted by the NHK educational program “Bakushomondai no nihon no kyoyo (Japanese Culture by the comedians Bakushomondai),” which emphasized the uniqueness of our research. These are honors and achievements resulting from leading international and domestic joint research projects with the help of many scientists. In addition, the familiarity and appealing nature of this research has provided many opportunities to interact and communicate on the subject of science with elementary, junior high, senior high school students and regular citizens, which I have been actively engaged in. Science is like intellectual entertainment and it alone can bring joy to people. I take great pleasure in sharing the magnificence of science with many people.



(1)  Toshiyuki Nakagaki, “Slime Fungus - Surprising Intelligence (Nenkin-Sono Odorokubeki Chisei),” PHP Science World Shinso, pp.1-198,PHP Kenkyujo, 2010.

(2)  Toshiyuki Nakagaki (Written by) and Toshiyuki Saito (Drawn by), “Clever Cell Slime Fungus (Kashikoi Saibo Nenkin),” Fukuinkan Shoten, Monthly “Many Mysteries (Takusan no Fushigi),” Vol. 332, 2012.

(3)  Shigeru Kuroda and Toshiyuki Nakagaki, “Physics of Biological Phenomena - Toward Laws of Motion of Biological Behaviors (Seimei Gensho no Butsurigaku - Seibutsu Kodo no Undohoteishiki wo Mezashite),” “Guidance to Physics (Butsurigaku Guidance ),” Ed. By Nihon Hyoron Sha Henshu Bu, pp.189-216, Nihon Hyoron Sha, 2014.

(4)  Toshiyuki Nakagaki, “Phenomenological Mathematics of Life Information Processing - Maze-solving by an amoeba (Seimei Joho Shori no Gensho Surigaku - Nenkin no Meiro Toki-),” “Introduction on Phenomenological Mathematics (Gensho Surigaku Nyumon),” Ed. By Masayasu Mimura, University of Tokyo Press, pp.27-46, 2013.

(5)  Toshiyuki Nakagaki (Translation Supervised by), Keener, J. P. and Sneyd, J., “Mathematical Physiology (Suri Seirigaku),” Nihon Hyron Sha, Vol. 1 1-408, Vol. 2 1-419, 2005.

(6)  Reiko Tanaka, Hiroyasu Yamada, Atsuko Takamatsu, and Toshiyuki Nakagaki (Translated by), Golubitsky, M. and Stewart, I., “The Symmetry Perspective -From Equilibrium to Chaos in Phase Space and Physical Space (Taishosei no Yabure to Pattern Keisi no Suri),” Maruzen, pp.1-562, 2003.