Letter from CAIRC
May 2000 Vol.4 No.2

Recipients Selected for the Third Annual Scholarship for Research on
the Relationship Between Humans and Companion Animals

Five Recipients Selected from Among 42 Applicants

The following five researchers were selected to receive the third annual Scholarship for Research on the Relationship Between Humans and Companion Animals.

- Masahiko Motooka (35, medical department assistant, Gunma University; resident of Isezaki City, Gunma Prefecture)
Research theme: "A Trial of Animal Assisted Therapy With Dogs Designed to Improve Patients' Quality Of Life (QOL) and Depression Conditions Following Cardiac Infarction"

- Takayoshi Yamaguchi (25, doctoral student, Kyoto University Graduate School; resident of Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture)
Research theme: "The Position of Dogs in Tibetan Society in Yunnan - A Structural Anthropological Inquiry into the Relationship between Pastoralists and Dogs"

- Michiko Saito (26, doctoral student, Azabu University Graduate School; resident of Mitaka City, Tokyo)
Research theme: "A Study of Canine Numerical Ability Using Discrimination Learning"

- Yoko Niimi (23, doctoral student, Gifu University Graduate School; resident of Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture)
Research theme: "A Trial of Prediction of Aptitude in Service Dogs - Using Genes Related to Personality as an Indicator"

- Ryoko Ueoka (29, researcher, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo; resident of Tokyo)
Research theme: "A Study of Relational Expansion Between Humans and Companion Animals Using Telecommunications Systems"

The committee for selecting scholarship recipients was composed of the following three members: Mitsuaki Ohta, professor, Azabu University; Yuji Mori, professor, University of Tokyo; and CAIRC president Yoichi Shoda, professor emeritus, University of Tokyo. The committee made its final selections on May 18 of the above five recipients, who will each receive 500,000 yen.

Applicants From Various Fields Such as IT, DNA Research,
Cultural Anthropology

In the hope of promoting the establishment of the formal study of the relationship between humans and companion animals and to deepen understanding of companion animals, we of the Companion Animal Information and Research Center have been providing support for the development of exceptional young researchers in the field. The scholarship program for research on the relationship between humans and companion animals is part of that effort. This year's group of scholarship applicants was more diverse then ever. In addition to students of zoology and veterinary medicine, candidates included researchers from such fields as sociology, medicine, cultural anthropology, psychology, nursing science, pharmacology and biology.

"Compared with the last two application years, there were far more applicants specializing in humanities fields this time," said CAIRC President Shoda, who served as selection committee chairman. "We also had applicants from the information technology field. We tried to select from the widest range of fields possible, while keeping priority on research excellence." Even those who were not selected had intriguing ideas, and selection committee members seem to have felt much hope that a great many young researchers are appearing in this new field.

Selection Criteria: Uniqueness of Viewpoint, Feasibility,
Concrete and Clear Purpose, Thorough Planning

The committee members were asked their views about the five research proposals selected.

With regard to Mr. Motooka's proposal on improving quality of life and relieving depression in heart patients through animal assisted therapy, Professor Ohta said:

"Currently there is very little scientific data on animal assisted therapy. But without a scientific approach, the effectiveness of these therapies can not be known. There were other research proposals about improving QOL, but Mr. Motooka's proposal was the clearest with respect to its purpose and planning. That heightened its appeal. Another reason for the selection was that we believe it is necessary for those in the medical field to actively take on this area of research."

In reference to Mr. Yamaguchi's study of the position of dogs in Tibet, Professor Shoda said:

"This study delves into the actual conditions of Tibetans' dog breeding practices. It includes a lexicon of everyday vocabulary items relating to dogs, and thus constitutes a systematic study of the relationship between humans and animals. We saw several applications this time on studies of dog breeding by nation, region and ethnic group from cultural anthropological perspectives. Indeed, there are differences in dog breeding from one region and culture to another. It is important to research these differences. This research proposal is expected to produce results that have never been seen before, as it is the study of a minority people who, also as pastoralists, earnestly follow unique traditions and customs. The work on dog-related vocabulary is especially intriguing."

On Ms. Saito's proposal on canine numerical ability, Professor Ohta said:

"Most studies of dogs so far have focused on their behavioral traits or on their senses such as smell or hearing. Not many have included the objective study of canine intelligence. When dogs are said to recognize numbers, they are usually simply recognizing and reacting to subtle incidental cues such as changes in people's facial expressions and attitudes. I believe that by objectively studying and collecting data on whether they really understand numbers, we will be able to understand dogs more correctly. I also think this research will prove useful in other fields, such as dog training."

With regard to Ms. Niimi's proposal on using genetic technology in predicting aptitude in service dogs, Professor Mori said:

"Since the ongoing discovery of polymorphism in genes thought to contribute to human personality formation began several years ago, studies searching for genes upon which disposition or individual character are based — that is, genes relating to personality — have been in the spotlight. Ms. Niimi is in the limelight for already issuing several interesting studies in this area, including her path-breaking world-class study of a dog gene relating to personality (dopamine receptor D4).

"Such studies attempting to link behavior and genetics, which at first glance seem to be vastly different, are highly important. This is an urgent subject from the biological viewpoint. Thus, the entire selection committee was unanimous in selecting her proposal. We anticipate that the results of basic research will develop into applied research that leads to improving the efficiency of training service dogs."

With regard to Ms. Ueoka's proposal on relational expansion between humans and companion animals, Professor Mori said:

"Thanks to the IT revolution, family members have become able to contact each other through new channels such as the Internet or on cellular phones. Communication with pets, who should also be considered family members, however, has not benefited in the same way. In fact, more than a few pet owners say they cannot leave their pets when they go out because they are too worried.

"Ms. Ueoka's research concept involves using sensors to allow people to check on a pet's activities and position within the home at any given time, and to provide food and care, all from remote terminal devices. While the rapid development of remote telecommunications technology can, on the one hand, give rise to a cold an impersonal environment, this field represents its ability to create new channels for meaningful communication. This project represents research with vision."

Overall, CAIRC President Shoda said, "I think we were able to select high quality, diverse research proposals in a well-balanced manner." The recipients of the latest scholarships represent the perspectives of advanced science and technology such as information technology and genetics, as well as cultural anthropology and archeology. Research on the relationship between humans and companion animals is making steady, certain progress thanks to such pioneering studies by young researchers. We at the Companion Animal Information and Research Center anticipate that much will come from their efforts.

Profiles of Selection Committee Members:

- Mitsuaki Ohta, professor, Animal and Human Bonds, School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University.
Former associate professor of agriculture at Osaka Prefecture University. Research focuses on the "healing effects" of animals. Publications include "Physiology for Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists" and "Animal Rescue in the Great Hanshin Earthquake."

- Yuji Mori, professor of veterinary ethology, veterinary medical science/animal resource science, University of Tokyo.
Former associate professor at the University of Tokyo. Current chairman of the editorial board for the Japanese Journal of Human Animal Relations. Chairman of the editorial board for the journal of the Japanese Society of Animal Reproduction. Translations include "The Behavior of Domestic Animals," authored by Benjamin L. Hart.

- Yoichi Shoda, professor emeritus, University of Tokyo; president, Companion Animal Information and Research Center.
Doctor of agricultural science. Former professor at the University of Tokyo. Current director of the Tokyo Zoological Park Society, councilor of the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology. Published books include "Animal Created by Man."