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Marc A. Sommer


W. H. Gardner, Jr. Associate Professor

We study circuits for cognition. Using a combination of neurophysiology and biomedical engineering, we focus on the interaction between brain areas during visual perception, decision-making, and motor planning. Specific projects include the role of frontal cortex in metacognition, the role of cerebellar-frontal circuits in action timing, the neural basis of "good enough" decision-making (satisficing), and the neural mechanisms of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Appointments and Affiliations

  • W. H. Gardner, Jr. Associate Professor
  • Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Associate Professor in Neurobiology
  • AssociateProfessor of Psychologyand Neuroscience
  • Member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Investigator in the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
  • Associate of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society

Contact Information

  • Office Location: 1427 Ciemas, Box 90281, 101 Science Dr., Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: (919) 684-7015
  • Email Address:
  • Websites:


  • Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1995

Research Interests

Neuronal circuits of the brain, including recording from single neurons and studying the effects of inactivating or stimulating well-defined brain areas. His goals are to understand how individual areas process signals and how multiple areas interact to cause cognition and behavior. Results from the work are guiding the design of vision-based models and robots.

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Bass Society of Fellows. Duke University. 2017
  • Capers and Mario McDonald Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising. Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University. 2017
  • Sloan Research Fellowship-Neuroscience. Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. 2005

Courses Taught

  • BME 394: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 493: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 494: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 517: Neuronal Control of Movement (GE, EL)
  • BME 790L: Advanced Topics with the Lab for Graduate Students in Biomedical Engineering
  • BME 791: Graduate Independent Study
  • BME 792: Continuation of Graduate Independent Study
  • BME 899: Special Readings in Biomedical Engineering
  • ME 492: Special Projects in Mechanical Engineering
  • NEUROSCI 493: Research Independent Study 1
  • NEUROSCI 507: Neuronal Control of Movement (GE, EL)
  • NEUROSCI 755: Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Neuroscience (IPCN) Independent Research Rotation

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Gamboa, OL; Brito, A; Abzug, Z; D'Arbeloff, T; Beynel, L; Wing, EA; Dannhauer, M; Palmer, H; Hilbig, SA; Crowell, CA; Liu, S; Donaldson, R; Cabeza, R; Davis, SW; Peterchev, AV; Sommer, MA; Appelbaum, LG, Application of long-interval paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation to motion-sensitive visual cortex does not lead to changes in motion discrimination., Neurosci Lett, vol 730 (2020) [10.1016/j.neulet.2020.135022] [abs].
  • Subramanian, D; Alers, A; Sommer, MA, Corollary Discharge for Action and Cognition., Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, vol 4 no. 9 (2019), pp. 782-790 [10.1016/j.bpsc.2019.05.010] [abs].
  • Toader, AC; Rao, HM; Ryoo, M; Bohlen, MO; Cruger, JS; Oh-Descher, H; Ferrari, S; Egner, T; Beck, J; Sommer, MA, Probabilistic inferential decision-making under time pressure in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)., Journal of Comparative Psychology, vol 133 no. 3 (2019), pp. 380-396 [10.1037/com0000168] [abs].
  • Yeung, AH-F; Subramanian, D; Desai, AD; Soltanian-Zadeh, S; Roy, A; Vajzovic, L; Sommer, M; Farsiu, S, Spatio-temporal image modulation for enhancing the quality of vision with potential application in patients with retinal prostheses, Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, vol 60 no. 9 (2019) [abs].
  • Yarossi, M; Quivira, F; Dannhauer, M; Sommer, MA; Brooks, DH; Erdoǧmuş, D; Tunik, E, An experimental and computational framework for modeling multi-muscle responses to transcranial magnetic stimulation of the human motor cortex, International Ieee/Embs Conference on Neural Engineering, Ner, vol 2019-March (2019), pp. 1122-1125 [10.1109/NER.2019.8717159] [abs].