Takeshi Watanabe

Aarhus University, Visiting Researcher

05-26 watanabe_r

We interviewed Dr. Takeshi Watanabe, who is staying in Denmark as a Visiting Researcher at Aarhus University from April 2020.

What kind of research are you doing in Denmark?

It could be observed that patients with positive expectation tend to get well easily, while patients with negative expectation of side effects tend to experience severe side effects. These phenomena are called placebo and nocebo effects respectively. I am studying about the impact of placebo, nocebo effects on dental treatment.

Why are you interested in the placebo or nocebo effect?

In Japan, I have worked as a dentist since I obtained my dental license. In particular, I treated the patients with chronic oral pain and oral discomfort without visible dental disease, such as caries and periodontal disease by using low-dose psychotropics. I got interested in the placebo, nocebo effect because I realized that the explanation I gave to the patients in the clinic had a significant impact on the treatment outcome. In addition, patients with such symptoms often complain about their previous dentist, for example, "I've had pain ever since they drilled my teeth without explanation," and I began to think that the placebo effect and the nocebo effect might have a significant impact on how they feel pain in dental practice and how the symptoms remain.

Why did you choose your current institution?

When I decided to study abroad, I would like to perform interdisciplinary research from several aspects such as psychology and dentistry. The professor in my current group are one of the famous researchers in the field of placebo research and usually collaborated with dental researchers. I sent her my motivation letter and CV. Fortunately she got interested and kindly send me a message. After that, I was able to meet and talk to members of the group at the conference in the Netherlands. The experience helped me choosing the current institution.

What is the biggest challenge you face in conducting your research?

The most recent challenge is to obtain a grant to continue my research in the current group in the next year and beyond. Although, it is important to write papers in order to share my research with the world, I think it is necessary to be able to obtain stable funding to continue my research at first. In the future, I would like to become the Principal Investigator who can perform the research, which helps solving the problems that occur in dentistry from various perspectives, using my experience in biochemistry, economics and psychology.

Does your experience as a JSPS Research Fellow (DC2) at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University help you during your research in Denmark?

When I was DC2 research fellow, I have experienced biochemical and molecular biological research. Although I am currently in a psychology group, I would like to examine the association of genetic polymorphisms in patients and placebo, nocebo effect. I believe that interdisciplinary research will be possible by discussing with researchers in different fields while I have what I learned during DC2 as my speciality.

How do you think about the research environment in Denmark compared to Japan?

It's difficult to make simple comparisons because we often work from home due to the corona situation, but I think that all of my Danish colleagues tend to take sufficient vacations. So I naturally try to keep myself in line with the plan to work with them. Also, maybe it's more of a characteristic of group than a characteristic of Denmark, but I can ask the librarian to do the literature search and assistants to do the screening work of systematic review. I belong to the Department of Psychological and Behavioral Sciences, and we are currently collaborating with the Department of Dentistry and Oral Health. Moreover, we will collaborate with the Department of Biomedicine. Although I will keep track of and check the work I asked collaborators to do, it is easy to collaborate with someone who has expertise in each field. These collaborations make it easier to carry out research.

Finally, do you have a message for researchers who are thinking of starting their research in Denmark?

There are many attractive cities in Denmark, not only the capital city of Copenhagen, but also Aarhus where I live and Odense, etc. Please feel free to contact me when you arrive in Denmark. I am looking forward to meeting you!

(November, 2020)
Academic background

01/04/2020 – Present Visiting researcher, Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Aarhus University (Research Fellowship, The Uehara Memorial Foundation)

01/04/2018 – 31/03/2020 Research Assistant Professor, Psychosomatic Dental Clinic, Tokyo Medical and Dental University Dental Hospital

01/04/2017 – 31/03/2018 Clinical Fellow, Psychosomatic Dental Clinic, TMDU Dental Hospital

01/04/2016 – 31/03/2017 Dental Clinical Resident, TMDU Dental Hospital

01/04/2014 – 31/03/2016 DDS and B.S. in Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU), Tokyo, Faculty of Dentistry (return to 5th grade)

01/04/2010 – 31/03/2014 Ph.D. in Dentistry (received 17/01/2018), TMDU, Tokyo(01/04/2011-31/03/2013 JSPS Research Fellow (DC2))

01/04/2008 – 31/03/2010 Faculty of Dentistry, TMDU (transfer to 3rd grade), Tokyo

01/04/2004 – 31/03/2008 B.S. in Economics, Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo