My Research

Current Research


Can we ‘de-bias’ someone? A Neuroscientific approach to decreasing bias (2016-2017)

We want to examine implicit bias towards marginalized groups in society and test an advanced form of ‘de-biasing’. Portrayals of marginalized groups are often used in the media and it is important to examine the psychological effects that these portrayals might have. Most significant, we are testing not just how portrayals affect perception, but specifically what processes they alter in the brain. This will allow us to uncover the neural mechanisms of biasing and most importantly, de-biasing.

Stay updated on this study: Click HERE


Is there a conflict between what an individual prefers and what they normatively believe they should prefer, given a political identity? (2016-2017)

Working with Dr. Mark Pickup on a project seeking neurological evidence that individuals who have incongruencies between their political identities and personal interests can experience a conflict when making political choices. This is achieved through a multi-modality approach, employing cognitive psychology tasks, high-density brain electrical recordings, and neurocomputational modeling.


Social conservatism, Belief in God, and ‘model-based’ vs. ‘model-free’ reinforcement learning (In progress)

We are investigating whether Social Conservatism, Belief in God – as well as other measures related to the latter and former – are associated with differences in neurocomputational models of reinforcement learning, such as ‘model-based’and ‘model-free’ reinforcement learning.


The Effects of Chronic Stress on Model-Based and Model-Free Reward Learning in Marginalized Groups: A Neurocomputational Approach. (2017 – )

Many theories suggest that lapses in judgement, characteristic of addiction and impulsivity, are driven by a shared deficit in goal-directed control. As such, deficits in goal-directed control may leave individuals vulnerable to rely heavily on forming more rigid habits. While habits have their place in cognition, they are unable to adapt flexibly to new environmental situations. Individuals who possess strong goal-directed control are able to adapt and regulate their behavior in a deliberate manner, and produce ‘controlled’ processes for learning about reward and punishment. As such, research has shown that the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis stress response has detrimental effects on prefrontal cortex function, which would reduce model-based contributions to learning and behaviour. With the help of Dr. Pablo Nepomnaschy at SFU’s Maternal and Child Health Laboratory (Nepomnaschy Lab), we will be investigating the effects of transgenerational stress and chronic stress on model-based reinforcement learning.


Previous Research

Electrophysiological Differences in Gender Stereotype Processing Between Liberals and Conservatives

Baker, A.K., Baker, T.E., Liotti, M., Fuji-Johnson, G., (in prep). Electrophysiological Differences in Gender Stereotype Processing between Liberals and Conservatives. .

jjIn recent years, neuroscientists and political scientists have observed personality and cognitive differences modulated by the divergence of political attitudes (e.g. liberalism and conservatism). As such, liberals have shown greater openness and responsiveness to new ideas and experiences, whereas conservatives exhibit a more structured and tenacious mode of thinking. As a corollary, event-related potentials (ERPs) have been used to highlight these neurocognitive differences in political attitudes, as well as examining the neural mechanisms underlying social behavior such as stereotyping. Here, we amalgamate this work by using ERPs and behavioral assays of gender stereotyping, together with questionnaires about political orientation, to examine the neural and cognitive mechanisms of stereotype processing, and how the divergence of political attitudes mediates gender stereotype processing. Our investigation revealed distinct behavioral and spatiotemporal differences in the processing and integration of gender stereotype word-pairs between liberals and conservatives; bolstering the utility of ERPs to investigate the social and political brain. (Results to be released soon! In submission process)

Paracingulate Sulcus: Is Two Better Than One?

Baker, T.E., Miron, J.P., Baker, A.K., Mahu, T., Conrod., P., the IMAGEN consortium. (in prep). Paracingulate Sulcus: Is two better than one?

1430793057086 (1)Research Center of CHU Saint-Justine Mother and Child University Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, University of Montreal. Here, under the supervision of Dr. Travis E. Baker (post-doc in Patricia ConrodLaboratory), I was involved in genetic and neuroimaging data coding for a research project investigating reinforcement-related behavior and risk taking in normal brain function and psychopathology in teenagers and the impact of single and double paracingulate sulci on cognition.




Disposition versus Symptom Severity as Influences on Negative Affective Priming (in prep., authorship contribution)

Booy, R.M., Baker, A.K., & Liotti, M., (in prep). Cognitive underpinnings of the negative affective priming task: An ERP investigation.

nomoodnap-figureI am very grateful to be helping Regard Booy (Masters student at the Laboratory for Affective and Developmental Neuroscience) with his study on Disposition versus Symptom Severity as Influences on Negative Affective Priming. What a great study he has created!