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Toru Shimizu, USF researcher in animal cognition, is co-author of two papers published in July

July 12, 2013

Research shows birds can use tools, solve new problems, and plan for the future

By Katie Vasenina
USF Research News

TAMPA, Fla. – University of South Florida professor of psychology Toru Shimizu is co-author of two articles published this month in academic journals, with one featured in the July issue of Science.

"Distinct neural circuits underlie assessment of a diversity of natural dangers by American crows," was published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B on July 3, 2013. This research was featured in Science magazine. Science author Virginia Morell described the research as "a new brain-scanning method [that] offers a window into the brains of birds, which have emerged as the surprising stars of many animal cognition studies."

USF professor Toru Shimizu's work with birds is providing insights into the mysteries of intelligence shared by both birds and humans (Photo:  Aimee Blodgett, USF News)

USF professor Toru Shimizu's work with birds is providing insights into the mysteries of intelligence shared by both birds and humans (Photo: Aimee Blodgett, USF News)

The second article, "Large-scale network organization in the avian forebrain: a connectivity matrix and theoretical analysis," was published online in the Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience on July 4. Using mathematical tools, the research demonstrated the similarity of brain connections between birds and mammals.

Shimizu's research is focused on visual information processing, animal cognition, comparative neuroscience, and evolution of the brain. He leads the Comparative Cognition and Neuroscience laboratory at USF.

(Photo:  Aimee Blodgett, USF News)

(Photo: Aimee Blodgett, USF News)

"One of our major goals is to understand the neural basis of cognitive abilities in non-human animals, birds in particular" said Shimizu. "We now know that birds are capable of using tools, solving new problems, and planning for the future. Studying their brains and behaviors provides us with important insights into the mysteries of intelligence that are shared by humans."

Shimizu joined USF in 1991. He received his M.S. and Ph. D. degrees in psychology from the University of Maryland and was a post-doctoral neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego. He has been a visiting professor at Keio University in Japan and helped to facilitate a collaborative research agreement between the psychology departments of Keio and USF.

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