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USF Professor Toru Shimizu

USF Professor Toru Shimizu

USF Professor Toru Shimizu Chosen Association for Psychological Science Fellow

Prestigious designation recognizes career discoveries on the function of brains and behavior. 

TAMPA, Fla. – USF Professor Toru Shimizu, whose pioneering work in understanding the workings of avian brains and behaviors to better understand human intelligence, has been selected as a new Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science.

APS is the leading international organization dedicated to advancing scientific psychology across disciplinary and geographic borders. A faculty member in the Department of Psychology since 1991, Shimizu currently serves as Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs for the College of Arts and Sciences.

Over a distinguished academic career spanning more than three decades, Shimizu’s work is recognized for opening new research frontiers and exploring the formation of intelligence at the cellular level. He is internationally recognized as one of the leading experts in avian brains and behaviors – an innovative pathway to better understand human intelligence through an interdisciplinary approach of comparative psychology and neurobiology.

His research projects have examined how bird brains, despite the lack of a cerebral cortex, produce intelligent and complex behavior, and what this can tell us about the way the human brain works. Shimizu co-authored a 1989 landmark paper which re-examined the then prevailing hypothesis for the evolution of the neocortex and significantly advanced the study of the evolution of the human brain and mechanisms for information processing. 

In another landmark research achievement, Shimizu was part of the 2002 Avian Brain Nomenclature Forum to revise and reform the nomenclature for cell groups and fiber tracts of avian brains. Until then, the nomenclature had been outdated and often erroneous, causing significant stumbling blocks to research progress in understanding the evolutionary relationship of avian brains to the brains of other animals.

Other milestone research achievements include his participation in an international NASA project to study the effects of weightlessness on neural development. He and his collaborators also led a study to develop PET scan imaging techniques to analyze the active brains of birds in real time—the first study of its kind to apply PET scanning technology to avian brains and behavior. His more recent research involves a collaboration with other neuroscientists to map the complete connection patterns of more than 50 brain structures of birds, which offers important new information about the evolution of vertebrate brains. 

Shimizu has led more than two dozen research grants totaling more than $4.2 million from agencies including the National Science Foundation, NASA, Office of Naval Research, National Institutes of Health, and Sigma Xi, among others. In 2018, Dr. Shimizu was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has also led community-wide education initiatives for K-12 students and the general public, such as the Brain Awareness Day at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa.

Shimizu received his Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Keio University in Tokyo and earned his Master degree and PhD in psychology both from the University of Maryland, College Park. He served as a post-doctoral neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego.

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