Jeffery L. Barker, M.D.

Scientist Emeritus

Laboratory of Neurophysiology


Building 49, Room 2A20
49 Convent Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892-4123


Research Topics

Dr. Barker initially studied chemical and electrical forms of neuronal excitability in vitro using invertebrate and vertebrate model systems. Some of the more highly-cited results include pacemaker potential mechanisms of invertebrate neurons and their neurohormonal regulation by peptides, and opioid peptide modulation of excitatory amino acid neurotransmitter signals in cultured mammalian CNS neurons without change in membrane conductance (“neuromodulation”). He used biophysical methods to quantify the elementary electrical properties of receptor-ion channels activated by inhibitory amino acid neurotransmitters and formed unique properties for each, giving rise to different signals. This lead to identification of specific general anesthetics, anticonvulsants, tranquilizers and convulsants that could modulate receptor-channels and synaptic signals, as well as naturally occurring steroid metabolites that mimicked the potentiating actions of barbiturates. His laboratory collaborated with NICHHD neuroscientists to show that an excitatory amino acid neurotransmitter receptor subtype activated Ca2A entry via cation-selective channels. He initiated the use of fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) to identify and isolate specific phenotypes during CNS development and used fluorescent indicator dyes to reveal the progressive appearance and distribution of excitable membrane properties and mechanisms to regulate cytoplasmic Ca2A levels among neural stem isolation, progenitor and differentiating cell populations. Using FACS isolation and culture the roles for different peptide growth factors and their receptors in proliferation, apoptosis and differentiation were revealed. The FACS initiative led to the FACS Core Facility serving many IRP programs of NINDS and other institutes.


Dr. Jeffery Barker graduated from Harvard Collegemagna cum laudeand from the Boston University School of Medicine where he was president of the school’s honor society. After a surgical internship in Boston he came to the NINDS IRP in 1969 as a PHS Research Fellow and embarked on a neuroscience career, training primarily with Drs. Roger Nicoll (NIMH), Hal Gainer (NICHD) and Tom Smith (NINDS). Dr. Barker received tenure (1973), later became Chief of the NINDS Laboratory of Neurophysiology (1981) and retired as Scientist Emeritus (2012). He published 289 peer-reviewed and 83 invited papers, edited 8 books and monographs, presented 200 invited lectures and organized 14 national and international symposia. He served twice on the Society for Neuroscience Program Committee and was President of its Potomac Chapter. He also chaired the NINDS Tenure and Promotion Committee. Honors included three PHS Commendation and Meritorious Service Medals, the BUSM Distinguished Alumnus Award, three Grass Traveling Lectureships and four keynote addresses at the Marine Biology Laboratory, Duke University, Ben-Gurion University and the University of Cardiff.

This page was last updated on November 2nd, 2017