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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Photo of Chris Baker

Christopher Baker, Ph.D.


Dr. Baker is Chief of the Unit on Learning and Plasticity in the Laboratory of Brain and Cognition. He received his B.A. in Neuroscience in 1995 from the University of Cambridge in England, and his Ph.D. in Psychology in 1999 from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where he worked with Dr. David Perrett on neurophysiological studies of visual perception. During a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition in Pittsburgh, he worked with both Carl Olson and Marlene Behrmann on combined monkey neurophysiological and human behavioral studies of visual object representation and learning. In 2003, he moved to MIT to work with Nancy Kanwisher, using functional brain imaging techniques to investigate learning, plasticity and high-level vision in human cortex. Dr. Baker arrived at the NIMH in the fall of 2006.

Research Interests

The aim of the Unit on Learning and Plasticity is to better understand how the structure, function and selectivity of the cortex change with experience or impairment, even in adulthood. Toward this goal, there are three main avenues of research, principally using brain-imaging techniques. The first avenue concerns the nature of perceptual representations in the human brain, focusing on complex visual stimuli such as faces, bodies, scenes and words. The second avenue explores how experience and learning change the neural and cognitive representations of sensory input. For example, what are the neural changes underlying our enormous capacity to learn to recognize new objects and to make fine-grained discriminations among those objects? The third avenue concerns how the cortex adapts following damage to the nervous system (either peripheral or central). For example, what is the impact of macular degeneration (loss of foveal vision) or amputation on cortical function and how does that relate to conditions such as phantom limb pain (pain in the missing limb)? Elucidating the nature and extent of cortical plasticity is critical for understanding brain function throughout life.

Selected Publications

Bainbridge WA, Baker CI (2020). Boundaries Extend and Contract in Scene Memory Depending on Image Properties. Curr Biol 30, 537-543.e3. [Pubmed Link]

Silson EH, Steel A, Kidder A, Gilmore AW, Baker CI (2019). Distinct subdivisions of human medial parietal cortex support recollection of people and places. Elife 8. [Pubmed Link]

Epstein RA, Baker CI (2019). Scene Perception in the Human Brain. Annu Rev Vis Sci 5, 373-397. [Pubmed Link]

Hebart MN, Bankson BB, Harel A, Baker CI, Cichy RM (2018). The representational dynamics of task and object processing in humans. Elife 7. [Pubmed Link]

Groen II, Greene MR, Baldassano C, Fei-Fei L, Beck DM, Baker CI (2018). Distinct contributions of functional and deep neural network features to representational similarity of scenes in human brain and behavior. Elife 7. [Pubmed Link]

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