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Arthur P. Shimamura

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Arthur P. Shimamura

Arthur P. Shimamura (born June 26, 1954 in Los Angeles, California) is a professor of psychology and faculty member of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on the neural basis of human memory and cognition. He received his BA in experimental psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1977 and his PhD in cognitive psychology from the University of Washington in 1982. He was a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Larry Squire, where he studied amnesic patients. In 1989, Shimamura began his professorship at UC Berkeley. He has published over 100 scientific articles and chapters, was a founding member of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, and has been science advisor for the San Francisco Exploratorium science museum.

In 2008, Shimamura received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship to explore links between art, mind, and brain. He and Stephen Palmer co-edited Aesthetic Science: Connecting Minds, Brains, and Experience, which includes chapters from philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists. His book, Experiencing Art: In the Brain of the Beholder, considers the perceptual, conceptual, and emotional features of the way we look at art (paintings and photography). In 2013, Shimamura edited a volume, Psychocinematics: Exploring Cognition at the Movies, which introduces psychocinematics, the term he coined for scientific investigations of the psychological and biological features of film.


Shimamura (2000) proposed dynamic filtering theory to describe the role of the prefrontal cortex in metacognitive or executive control processes. The prefrontal cortex acts as a high-level gating or filtering mechanism that enhances goal-directed activations and inhibits irrelevant activations. This filtering mechanism enables executive control at various levels of processing, including selecting, maintaining, updating, and rerouting activations. It has also been used to explain emotional regulation.

In 2009, Shimamura and Wickens (2009) proposed hierarchical relational binding theory, which offers a new interpretation of the role of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) in learning and memory (see also Shimamura, 2008). It is proposed that regions within the MTL conform to a hierarchical network with the hippocampus at the top of the hierarchy. Bindings that occur at the level of the hippocampus particularly strengthen memories so that strong memories get even stronger, a principle called "superadditive". Hierarchical relational binding theory explains both neuroimaging and behavior findings previously attributed to the distinction between recollection and familiarity.

Cortical binding of relational activity (or CoBRA) is a theory of episodic retrieval that defines the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) as a convergence zone that integrates or binds features of an episodic memory, thus facilitating memory retrieval (see Shimamura, 2011). Shimamura argues that this binding process is the final stage of memory consolidation such that through PPC binding, episodic memories become fully represented in the neocortex.

Honors and awards

  • John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (2008)
  • Fellow and charter member, Association for Psychological Science
  • Distinguished Teaching Award, Division of Social Sciences, UC Berkeley
  • Osher fellow and science advisor, San Francisco Exploratorium Science Museum
  • Ranked 9th of most-cited psychologists ("Highest Impact Authors, 1986-1990," APS Observer, November, 1992)

Publications list (partial)

  • Shimamura, A. P. (2000). The role of the prefrontal cortex in dynamic filtering. Psychobiology, 28, 207-218.
  • Shimamura, A. P. (2008). A neurocognitive approach to metacognitive monitoring and control. In J. Dunlosky & R. A. Bjork (Eds), Handbook of Metamemory and Memory (pp. 373–390). Psychology Press: New York.
  • Shimamura, A. P. & Wickens, T. D. (2009). Superadditive memory strength for item and source recognition: The role of hierarchical relational binding in the medial temporal lobe. Psychological Review, 116, 1-19.
  • Shimamura, A. P. (2011). Episodic retrieval and the cortical binding of relational activity. "Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience," 11, 277-291.
  • Shimamura, A. P. & Palmer, S. E. (Editors) (2012). Aesthetic Science: Connecting Minds, Brains, & Experience. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Shimamura, A. P. (Editor) (2013). Psychocinematics: Exploring Cognition at the Movies. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Shimamura, A. P. (2013). Experiencing Art: In the Brain of the Beholder. New York: Oxford University Press.

External links

  • Shimamura Lab Webpage
  • Shimamura's Personal Webpage
  • Shimamura's page at Berkley
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