Blake Porter, PhD

University of Otago — New Zealand

Email: blakeporterneuro {at} gmail {dot} com


Ph.D. in Psychology 
Feb 2014 – Aug 2017

University of Otago – Dunedin, New Zealand

B.A. in Neuroscience with Honors
Sept 2009 – May 2013

Minor: Human Physiology

Boston University – Boston, MA

Research Experience:

Kristin Hillman Lab for the Neural Basis of Effortful Behaviour 
Oct 2017 – Present

Post-doctoral fellow

University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ

Use of in vivo electrophysiology techniques to investigate the neural mechanisms of quitting behaviors.

Mike Colombo Lab for the Neural Basis of Learning and Memory 
July 2016 – Present 

Assistant research fellow

University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ

Data analysis using Matlab to analyze pigeon behavior and neural responses in a wide range of behavioral paradigms including serial order, face perception, and cost-benefit decision making. Conducting and teaching students histology. 

David Bilkey Lab for Brain and Behavior 
Feb 2014 – Aug 2017

PhD Student

University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ

Use of in vivo electrophysiology techniques to investigate how self-control is represented at a neural level, the effects that choice costs have on the brain’s representation of the world, and the circuit level dynamics of planning actions utilizing cost information

Howard Eichenbaum Lab for Cognitive Neurobiology                                 
Feb 2012 – Dec 2013

(Undergraduate) Research Assistant

Boston University, Boston, MA, USA

Use of in vivo electrophysiology techniques to investigate the structure of memory consolidation and organization in the hippocampus with learning, hippocampal and medial prefrontal circuit dynamics in a context-guided object association task, and to investigate the neural mechanisms by which conjunctive encoding within the dentate gyrus and between the dentate gyrus and other hippocampal subregions.


  • Madeline Dykes, Blake Porter, and Michael Colombo. (submitted) Neurons in the pigeon nidopallium caidolaterale, but not the corticoidea dorsolateralis, display value and effort discounting related activity.
  • William James Clark, Blake Porter, and Michael Colombo. (2019) Searching for Face-Category Representation in the Avian Visual Forebrain. Frontiers in Physiology. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00140
  • Blake S. Porter, Kristin L. Hillman, and David K. Bilkey. (2019) Anterior Cingulate Cortex encoding of effortful behavior. Journal of Neurophysiology.
  • Blake S. Porter, Robert Schmidt, and David K. Bilkey. (2018) Hippocampal place cell encoding of sloping terrain. Hippocampus, 28(11), 767-782. Open Access
  • Madeline Dykes, Aylin Klarer, Blake Porter, Jonas Rose, & Michael Colombo. (2018) Neurons in the pigeon Nidopallium Caudolaterale display value-related activity. Scientific Reports, 8:5377. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-23694-8. Open Access. [PDF]
  • Robert G.K. Munn, Kiah Hardcastle, Blake Porter, & David Bilkey. (2017) Circadian-scale periodic bursts in theta and gamma-band coherence between hippocampus, cingulate and insular cortices. Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms, 3, 26 – 37. Open access. [PDF]
  • Lara M. Rangel, Jon W. Rueckemann, Pamela D. Riverère, Katie R. Keefe, Blake S. Porter, Ian S. Heimbuch, Carl H. Budlong, and Howard Eichenbaum. (2016) Rhythmic coordination of hippocampal neurons during associative memory processing. eLife, 5:e09849. doi: Open Access. [PDF]
  • Anja Farovik, Ryan Place, Samuel McKenzie, Blake Porter, Catherine Munro, and Howard Eichenbaum. (2015) Orbitofrontal cortex encodes memories within value-based schemas and represents contexts that guide memory retrieval. Journal of Neuroscience, 35(21) 8333-8344. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0134-15.2015 [PDF
  • Sam McKenzie, Andrea J. Frank, Nathaniel R. Kinsky, Blake Porter, Pamela D. Riverère, and Howard Eichenbaum. (2014) Hippocampal Representation of Related and Opposing Memories Develop within Distinct, Hierarchically Organized Neural Schemas. Neuron, 83(1), 202 – 215. [PDF]

Poster Presentations:

  • David K Bilkey, Robert Schmidt, and Blake S. Porter. (2018) Sloping terrain induces changes in phase precession in hippocampal place cells. FENS Forum. Abstract.
  • William Clark, Blake Porter, and Michael Colombo. (2018) Face-category representation in the avian visual forebrain. FENS Forum. Poster.
  • Blake S. Porter, Calvin K. Young, and David K. Bilkey. (2016) Hippocampal place cell representations of effortful space. Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research. Proceedings.
  • Blake S. Porter, Kristin L. Hillman, and David K. Bilkey. (2015) The neural mechanisms of representing effortful space. Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research. Proceedings.
  • Lara M. Rangel, Katie R. Keefe, Pamela D. Riverère, Carl H. Budlong, Ian S. Heimbuch, Blake Porter, and Howard Eichenbaum. (2014) Single cell and ensemble odor-place representations in the Dentate Gyrus and CA1 of the Hippocampus. Society for Neuroscience Conference. Abstract.
  • Lara M. Rangel, Jeremiah S. Rosen, K. V. Chawla, Brian J. Ferreri, Ian Heimbuch, Blake Porter, and Howard Eichenbaum. (2013) Persistent increases in beta frequency oscillatory activity in the Dentate Gyrus of the Hippocampus During Object-Context Association Intervals. Society for Neuroscience Conference. Abstract.
  • Anja Farovik, Sam McKenzie, Ryan Place, Blake Porter, and Howard Eichenbaum. (2013) Neural activity by Medial Prefrontal cell ensembles during context-guided object discrimination. Society for Neuroscience Conference. Abstract.
  • Sam McKenzie, Andrea Frank, Lara M. Rangel, Jeremiah S. Rosen, Vittoria Smeglin, Blake Porter, and Howard Eichenbaum. (2013) Multidimensional coding in the Hippocampal network. Society for Neuroscience Conference. Abstract.
  • Blake Porter, Andrea Frank, Howard Eichenbaum. (2012) How does the Hippocampus integrate multiple related memory representations? Boston University Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program symposium. Link to Poster. Presenting the poster (to Sam McKenzie).


  • Blake S. Porter. (2018) Rodent effort tasks. The Australian and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Association’s Tech Week.
  • Blake Porter. (2016) The effects of effort on hippocampal spatial representations. Brain Health Research Center 10th Annual Conference.
  • Blake S. Porter. (2015) The network dynamics of effort encoding between the hippocampus and anterior cingulate cortex. Brain Health Research Center’s 9th Annual Conference. Recap of the event.
  • Blake S. Porter (2015) The cost of space: How the brain works and how it plans costly routes. Presentation at the University of Otago’s Abbey College.

Research Funding:

Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Marsden Grant “Quit or persist? The neural mechanisms of forfeit behaviour ” 
October 2017 – September 2020

University of Otago, NZ

PhD Scholarship from the Marsden Grant “The Brain Mechanisms of Self-Control”
February 2014 – January 2017

University of Otago, NZ

New Zealand Neurological Foundation Travel Grants
2015, 2016

Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research

Queenstown, NZ

UROP/HHMI Summer Grant for investigating “How Does the Hippocampus Integrate Multiple Related Memory Representations”
Summer 2012

Boston University

Teaching Experience:

Research Teaching and Mentoring: Teaching students rodent behavioral training, stereotaxic surgery, in vivo electrophysiology methods, and Matlab.

Advisees (their subsequent pursuit):

Demonstrator at University of Otago

Spring 2016, 2017

  • Biopsychology (PSYC317)

Mentor for Boston University Mind and Brain Society

Fall 2011 – Spring 2013

  • Mentored incoming freshman in the Undergraduate Neuroscience Program at BU.

Tutor at

October 2010 – September 2011

  • Tutored online from kindergarten to college level in biology, natural sciences, and math

Professional Service:

Peer Reviewer:

  • Animal Behavior Cognition

Brain Health Research Centre’s Emerging Researcher Group 

Nov 2018 – present

  • Event Coordinator – Developed and organized events for emerging researchers (Honors students to post-docs)
    • Organized and developed a workshop for “Communicating your science”
      • Personally gave a talk on graphing and data visualization and an Inkscape tutorial
    • Organized the Brain Health Research Centre’s 13th annual conference
    • Organized a bi-monthly networking event

Work Experience:

Long Term Potential Inc. 

May 2016 – May 2017

  • Founder and CEO – Focused on developing STEM education technologies for interactive learning.

Technical Expertise:

  • Animal Behavior: Rat handling and training on context-object and odor-place associative memory tasks, effort modulated linear tracks, dual animal interaction task. Video behavioural scoring (Cineplex Editor) and behavioural spatial tracking analysis (Matlab). Designing and implementing novel tasks targeted at effort based neural computations.
  • In vivo electrophysiology: 8 – 96 channel microdrive design and construction for multisite recordings using conventional and 3D printing techniques. Implementation of wireless in vivo recording systems and methods. Stereotaxic surgical implantation of microdrives and electrodes for single unit and local field potential recordings in awake-behaving rats targeting hippocampal subregions (CA1, CA3, DG), mPFC, and Insula. Recording single units and local field potentials in awake-behaving rats.
  • Computer programming: Proficient: MATLAB for analysis of behavioural, single unit, and local field potential data. C++/Arduino Development Environment for microcontrollers for the use of data collection and experimental automation (ie, doors, touch screens, solenoids, etc). Some experience: Python, Processing (Java), and p5.js (JavaScript).

Research Interests:

  • How the brain encodes effort, how it is effort modulates the brain’s representations of the world, and how effort influences goal setting, decision making, and persistence.
  • Brain rhythms and their underlying mechanisms in order to investigate circuit level communication between the hippocampus and downstream structures, particularly the prefrontal cortex.
  • How brain structures organize similar and distinct memories and how memory organization influences learning and decision making.
  • How the brain represents space in three dimensions when the z-axis is behaviourally relevant.