Research Approach

You can read about specific research questions and recent studies on the Projects page.

Two key themes guide my theoretical and methodological approach. First, given the centrality of cognitive control to many domains of cognition, I study flexible control in a variety of contexts – including decision making, declarative memory, visual attention, and working memory. By leveraging theories and models that have been developed in one area (e.g., visual attention), I can extend these models to explain analogous control functions in a separate cognitive domain (e.g., working memory). The goal of this approach is to develop integrative theories that account for a range of empirical findings and thus bridge disparate research areas within psychology and neuroscience.

Second, I use converging methods to connect behavior, neural data, and formal models. To this end, my research combines rigorous behavioral experiments with a variety of cognitive neuroscience techniques (fMRI, EEG, TMS) and computational approaches (e.g., reinforcement learning, diffusion models, quantitative models of working memory). I am particularly interested in the inferential power of causal methods, and my work incorporates cutting-edge neurostimulation techniques like rhythmic TMS and simultaneous TMS-fMRI. By delineating the basic causal mechanisms that support healthy cognitive control, the ultimate goal of these efforts is to help develop targeted interventions that can improve treatment for neuropsychiatric populations.

Selected publications by topic:

Cognitive Control and Working Memory (with Mark D'Esposito at UC Berkeley)

  • *Kiyonaga, A., *Scimeca, J. M., & D’Esposito, M. (accepted Registered Report). Dissociating the causal roles of frontal and parietal cortex in working memory capacity. Nature Human Behaviour.
  • *Riddle, J., *Scimeca, J. M., Cellier, D., Dhanani, S., & D'Esposito, M. (2020). Causal evidence for a role of theta and alpha oscillations in the control of working memory. Current Biology.
  • Scimeca, J. M., Kiyonaga, A., D’Esposito, M. (2018). Reaffirming the sensory recruitment account of working memory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Cognitive Control of Declarative Memory (with David Badre at Brown University)

  • Scimeca, J. M., Katzman, P. L., & Badre, D. (2016). Striatal prediction errors support dynamic control of declarative memory decisions. Nature Communications.
  • Scimeca, J. M. & Badre, D. (2012). Striatal contributions to declarative memory retrieval. Neuron.

Visual Attention (with Steve Franconeri at Northwestern University)