Marc A Sommer

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
  • 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: 101 Science Dr., 254 Hudson Hall Annex, Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: (919) 684-7015
  • Email Address:
  • Websites:


  • Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1995

Research Interests

Dr. Marc Sommer studies neuronal circuits of the brain. Research in his laboratory involves 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: Graduate Independent Study
  • COMPSCI 391: Independent Study
  • ME 394: Engineering Undergraduate Fellows Projects
  • NEUROBIO 720C: Concepts in Neuroscience II - Sensory/Motor Integration
  • NEUROBIO 793: Research in Neurobiology
  • NEUROSCI 493: Research Independent Study 1
  • NEUROSCI 494: Research Independent Study 2
  • NEUROSCI 507: Neuronal Control of Movement (GE, EL)
  • NEUROSCI 755: Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Neuroscience (IPCN) Independent Research Rotation

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Abzug, ZM; Sommer, MA, Serial Decision-Making in Monkeys During an Oculomotor Task, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition (2017) [10.1037/xan0000154] [abs].
  • Oh-Descher, H; Beck, JM; Ferrari, S; Sommer, MA; Egner, T, Probabilistic inference under time pressure leads to a cortical-to-subcortical shift in decision evidence integration., NeuroImage, vol 162 (2017), pp. 138-150 [10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.08.069] [abs].
  • Abzug, ZM; Sommer, MA, Supplementary Eye Fields (2017) [abs].
  • Rao, HM; Mayo, JP; Sommer, MA, Circuits for presaccadic remapping, Journal of Neurophysiology, vol 116 no. 6 (2016), pp. 2624-2636 [10.1152/jn.00182.2016] [abs].
  • Oh, H; Beck, JM; Zhu, P; Sommer, MA; Ferrari, S; Egner, T, Satisficing in split-second decision making is characterized by strategic cue discounting., Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, vol 42 no. 12 (2016), pp. 1937-1956 [10.1037/xlm0000284] [abs].

Lectures and Invited Talks

  • New Faculty Lecture Series,