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Marc A. Sommer


Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering

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

  • Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Associate Professor in Neurobiology
  • Associate Professor of Psychology and 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

  • Capers and Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research. Pratt School of Engineering. 2021
  • Capers and Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising. Pratt School of Engineering. 2017
  • Bass Fellow. Duke University. 2017
  • Research Fellowship-Neuroscience. Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. 2005

Courses Taught

  • BME 493-1: 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 601L: Introduction to Neural Engineering
  • BME 791: Graduate Independent Study
  • BME 792: Continuation of Graduate Independent Study
  • EGR 393: Research Projects in Engineering
  • NEUROBIO 393: Research Independent Study
  • NEUROBIO 793: Research in Neurobiology
  • NEUROSCI 507: Neuronal Control of Movement (GE, EL)

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Daw, TB; El-Nahal, HG; Basso, MA; Jun, EJ; Bautista, AR; Samulski, RJ; Sommer, MA; Bohlen, MO, Direct comparison of epifluorescence and immunostaining for assessing viral mediated gene expression in the primate brain (2022) [10.1101/2022.10.04.510807] [abs].
  • Goetz, SM; Howell, B; Wang, B; Li, Z; Sommer, MA; Peterchev, AV; Grill, WM, Isolating two sources of variability of subcortical stimulation to quantify fluctuations of corticospinal tract excitability., Clin Neurophysiol, vol 138 (2022), pp. 134-142 [10.1016/j.clinph.2022.02.009] [abs].
  • Subramanian, D; Pearson, J; Sommer, M, Contributions of Bayesian and Discriminative Models to Active Visual Perception across Saccades (2022) [10.1101/2022.06.22.497244] [abs].
  • Caruso, VC; Pages, DS; Sommer, MA; Groh, JM, Compensating for a shifting world: evolving reference frames of visual and auditory signals across three multimodal brain areas., Journal of Neurophysiology, vol 126 no. 1 (2021), pp. 82-94 [10.1152/jn.00385.2020] [abs].
  • Liu, S; Clements, JM; Kirsch, EP; Rao, HM; Zielinski, DJ; Lu, Y; Mainsah, BO; Potter, ND; Sommer, MA; Kopper, R; Appelbaum, LG, Psychophysiological Markers of Performance and Learning during Simulated Marksmanship in Immersive Virtual Reality., J Cogn Neurosci, vol 33 no. 7 (2021), pp. 1253-1270 [10.1162/jocn_a_01713] [abs].