Marc Coutanche

Department web site

Lab web site

Marc Coutanche

Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychology

Faculty, Learning Research & Development Center

Research Interests

My lab has two core areas of research. First, we draw on the methods of cognitive neuroscience to understand how the human brain learns and stores knowledge, and how new knowledge influences other cognitive systems. One of the lab's main approaches is to combine neuroimaging experiments with advanced computational techniques. These analysis approaches can help us identify and -just as importantly- understand how information is being represented in the complex activity patterns of human cortex. Another key approach is using behavioral investigations to research how new knowledge becomes integrated into our memory systems.

A second focus is the development and use of new analytical approaches to probe functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data. One of the biggest challenges of the recent growth in 'big data' is identifying meaningful patterns from the immense amount of data that is available to us. We are working on approaches to understand how the information in the brain's networks is successfully integrated across different regions and brain systems.

Ren, X., & Coutanche, M.N. (2021). Sleep reduces the semantic coherence of memory recall: An application of latent semantic analysis to investigate memory reconstruction. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

Koch, G.E., Paulus, J.P., & Coutanche, M.N. (2020). Neural patterns are more similar across individuals during successful memory encoding than during failed memory encoding. Cerebral Cortex.

Koch, G.E., Akpan, E., & Coutanche, M.N. (2020). Image memorability is predicted by discriminability and similarity in different stages of a convolutional neural network. Learning & Memory, 27(12), 503-509.

Bruett, H., Calloway, R.C., Tokowicz, N. & Coutanche, M.N. (2020). Neural pattern similarity across concept exemplars predicts memory after a long delay. NeuroImage, 219.

Coutanche, M. N., Koch, G. E., & Paulus, J. P. (2020). Influences on memory for naturalistic visual episodes: Sleep, familiarity, and traits differentially affect forms of recall. Learning & Memory, 27(7), 284–291.

Popov, V., Zhang, Q., Koch, G.E., Calloway, R.C., & Coutanche, M.N. (2019). Semantic knowledge influences whether novel episodic associations are represented symmetrically or asymmetrically. Memory & Cognition.

Coutanche, M. N. (2019). Addressing misconceptions of fast mapping in adults. Invited commentary. Cognitive Neuroscience.

Coutanche, M. N., Solomon, S. H., & Thompson-Schill, S. (2019). Conceptual combination. In The Cognitive Neurosciences, 6th edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Coutanche, M. N., & Thompson-Schill, S. L. (2019). Neural activity in human visual cortex is transformed by learning real world size. NeuroImage, 186, 570-576.

Martin, L., Durisko, C., Moore, M. W., Coutanche, M. N., Chen, D., & Fiez, J. A. (2019). The VWFA is the home of orthographic learning when house images are used as letters. eNeuro, 6(1)

Carlos, B. J., Hirshorn, E. A., Durisko, C., Fiez, J. A., & Coutanche, M. N. (2019). Word inversion sensitivity as a marker of visual word form area lateralization: An application of a novel multivariate measure of laterality. NeuroImage, 191,493-502.

Anzellotti, S., & Coutanche, M. N. (2018). Beyond functional connectivity: Investigating networks of multivariate representations. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Coutanche, M. N. & Paulus, J. P. (2018). An empirical analysis of popular press claims regarding linguistic change in President Donald J. Trump. Frontiers in Psychology, 9.

Bruett, H., Fang, X., Kamaraj, D. C., Haley, E., & Coutanche, M. N. (2018). Expertise moderates incidentally learned associations between words and images. Frontiers in Psychology, 9.

Coutanche, M. N. & Koch, G. E. (2018). Creatures great and small: Real-world size of animals predicts visual cortex representations beyond taxonomic category. NeuroImage, 183, 627-634.

Coutanche, M. N. & Koch, G. E. (2017). Variation across individuals and items determine learning outcomes from fast mapping. Neuropsychologia, 106, 187–193.

Coutanche, M.N., Solomon, S.H., & Thompson-Schill, S.L. (2016). A meta-analysis of fMRI decoding: Quantifying influences on human visual population codes. Neuropsychologia, 82, 134-141.

Coutanche, M. N. & Thompson-Schill, S. L. (2015). Rapid consolidation of new knowledge in adulthood via fast mapping. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19(9), 486-488

Coutanche, M.N. and Thompson-Schill, S.L. (2015). Creating concepts from converging features in human cortex. Cerebral Cortex, 25(9), 2584-2593.

Coutanche, M. N. & Thompson-Schill, S. L. (2014). Fast mapping rapidly integrates information into existing memory networks. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(6), 2296-2303

Coutanche, M. N. & Thompson-Schill, S. L. (2014). Using informational connectivity to measure the synchronous emergence of fMRI multi-voxel information across time. Journal of Visualized Experiments (89), e51226.

Coutanche, M. N. & Thompson-Schill, S. L. (2014). Creating concepts from converging features in human cortex. Cerebral Cortex.

Coutanche, M. N. & Thompson-Schill, S. L. (2013). Informational Connectivity: Identifying synchronized discriminability of multi-voxel patterns across the brain. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7(15), 1-14.

Coutanche, M. N. Gianessi, C. A., Chanales, A. J. H., Willison, K. W., & Thompson-Schill, S. L. (2013). The role of sleep in forming a memory representation of a two-dimensional space. Hippocampus, 23(12), 1189-1197.

Coutanche, M. N. (2013). Distinguishing multi-voxel patterns and mean activation: Why, how, and what does it tell us? Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience (CABN), 13(3), 667-673.

"Why Do We Want to Love Aliens?" Read Marc Coutanche's answer in the May 26 Pittwire "What's Out There?"

May 26, 2021


Kudos to Marc Coutanche, LRDC Research Scientist, and Assistant Professor, Psychology, who has been elected to the Memory Disorders Research Society (MDRS), an invitation-only professional society dedicated to the study of memory and memory disorders.

November 2020

Marc Coutanche, Griffin Koch, and John Paulus’ recent publication in Learning & Memory, "Influences on memory for naturalistic visual episodes: Sleep, familiarity, and traits differentially affect forms of recall,” abstract in June Research Roundup has been selected for the cover of the journal. Former LRDC research staff (now on his way to grad school), John Paulus, created the image. It is composed of frames of video episodes shown to people in the study and arranged to reflect a Shoebill, a bird that was featured in some of these episodes.

July 2020


Kudos to PI Marc Coutanche and co-I Natasha Tokowicz for NSF-funded research examining how the brain represents different granularities of a concept (animal, mammal, dog, Labrador, Fido). The work will use a series of fMRI experiments to test competing hypotheses for how the corresponding brain activity influences new learning, retrieval, and consolidation through sleep.

June 12, 2020

Vencislav Popov, Qiong Zhang, Griffin Koch, Regina Colloway, and Marc Coutanche's research was mentioned in Psychonomic Society's post, "Why We Don’t Serve “Cheese and Macaroni;" Investigating Directionality of Relationships Between Words."

February 25, 2020


Marc Coutanche's Association for Psychological Science Rising Star award was highlighted in Pittwire.

January 15, 2020


Marc Coutanche has been named an American Psychological Society (APS) Rising Star.

January 6, 2020


Marc Coutanche received a Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Award for his research on “Memory Success and Failure in the Older Brain.” The University of Pittsburgh CTSI established a "Research Initiative for Special Populations" to fund pilot programs that explore research topics for special populations, such as Marc Coutanche's.

November 13, 2019

In the October 18 The Atlantic Monthly "The Unraveling of Donald Trump" references a paper published by Marc Coutanche on the President's speech patterns (link to the original paper is in paragraph 11).

October 18, 2019


Julie Fiez, Marc Coutanche, and Corrine Durisko's study published in the Journal of the Society of Neuroscience has been featured in the May 17 PittWire article "Researchers Teach Adults to Read Using Pictures of Houses."

May 17, 2019


Kudos to Marc Coutanche and his XR Brain Jam team for developing an augmented reality solution to help children with autism make eye contact, titled Head On. The presented their work at Games for Change XR4C Summit. XR Brain Jam pairs neuroscience researchers with game development teams and charges them with exploring the intersection of their domains.

July 12, 2018


The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded one of only 19 grants given to cross-disciplinary teams across the United States to Melissa Libertus (P.I.), Associate Professor, Psychology, Marc Coutanche, Assistant Professor, Psychology, and Julie Fiez, Professor, Psychology, Neuroscience, CNBC and Communication Sciences and Disorders, to conduct innovative research on neural and cognitive systems.

August 8, 2017


Marc Coutanche, Assistant Professor, Psychology, and LRDC Research Scientist, was quoted in the July 11, 2017 issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in the article "Using Brain Patterns May Be First Step to Reading the Mind, CMU Study Shows."

July 17, 2017


Marc Coutanche, LRDC Research Scientist, has been selected as an awardee for the 2016 Pitt Research Council Central Research Development Fund (CRDF) for his project "Individual Differences in the Memory Systems Employed in Learning and Retrieval.”

July 11, 2016

Marc Coutanche, LRDC Research Scientist, was quoted in the July 6 Pittsburgh City Paper article “We Go Inside the Escape-Room Phenomenon,” on the role of stress in figuring out puzzles.

July 6, 2016


LRDC Research Scientist Marc Coutanche was quoted in the March 26 Today article “How Unconscious Memory Trips Us Up."

March 26, 2016


LRDC Research Scientist Marc Coutanche commented on a memory study for NBC Today (December 30, 2015), “What is your memory style? Brain wiring may control how we remember events.”

January 2016


Marc Coutanche has been awarded the 2015 Krieg Cortical Kudos Scholar award from the Cajal Club. The award will be presented at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting.


Krieg Cortical Kudos Scholar Award


Cajal Club

NIH Postdoctoral National Research Service Award (top percentile)