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 493-1: 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 790L: Advanced Topics with the Lab for Graduate Students in Biomedical 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 493: Research Independent Study 1
  • NEUROSCI 507: Neuronal Control of Movement (GE, EL)

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Tremblay, S; Acker, L; Afraz, A; Albaugh, DL; Amita, H; Andrei, AR; Angelucci, A; Aschner, A; Balan, PF; Basso, MA; Benvenuti, G; Bohlen, MO; Caiola, MJ; Calcedo, R; Cavanaugh, J; Chen, Y; Chen, S; Chernov, MM; Clark, AM; Dai, J; Debes, SR; Deisseroth, K; Desimone, R; Dragoi, V; Egger, SW; Eldridge, MAG; El-Nahal, HG; Fabbrini, F; Federer, F; Fetsch, CR; Fortuna, MG; Friedman, RM; Fujii, N; Gail, A; Galvan, A; Ghosh, S; Gieselmann, MA; Gulli, RA; Hikosaka, O; Hosseini, EA; Hu, X; Hüer, J; Inoue, K-I; Janz, R; Jazayeri, M; Jiang, R; Ju, N; Kar, K; Klein, C; Kohn, A; Komatsu, M; Maeda, K; Martinez-Trujillo, JC; Matsumoto, M; Maunsell, JHR; Mendoza-Halliday, D; Monosov, IE; Muers, RS; Nurminen, L; Ortiz-Rios, M; O'Shea, DJ; Palfi, S; Petkov, CI; Pojoga, S; Rajalingham, R; Ramakrishnan, C; Remington, ED; Revsine, C; Roe, AW; Sabes, PN; Saunders, RC; Scherberger, H; Schmid, MC; Schultz, W; Seidemann, E; Senova, Y-S; Shadlen, MN; Sheinberg, DL; Siu, C; Smith, Y; Solomon, SS; Sommer, MA; Spudich, JL; Stauffer, WR; Takada, M; Tang, S; Thiele, A; Treue, S; Vanduffel, W; Vogels, R; Whitmire, MP; Wichmann, T; Wurtz, RH; Xu, H; Yazdan-Shahmorad, A; Shenoy, KV; DiCarlo, JJ; Platt, ML, An Open Resource for Non-human Primate Optogenetics., Neuron, vol 108 no. 6 (2020), pp. 1075-1090.e6 [10.1016/j.neuron.2020.09.027] [abs].
  • Cushnie, AK; El-Nahal, HG; Bohlen, MO; May, PJ; Basso, MA; Grimaldi, P; Wang, MZ; de Velasco Ezequiel, MF; Sommer, MA; Heilbronner, SR, Using rAAV2-retro in rhesus macaques: Promise and caveats for circuit manipulation., Journal of Neuroscience Methods, vol 345 (2020) [10.1016/j.jneumeth.2020.108859] [abs].
  • Bohlen, MO; McCown, TJ; Powell, SK; El-Nahal, HG; Daw, T; Basso, MA; Sommer, MA; Samulski, RJ, Adeno-Associated Virus Capsid-Promoter Interactions in the Brain Translate from Rat to the Nonhuman Primate., Human Gene Therapy, vol 31 no. 21-22 (2020), pp. 1155-1168 [10.1089/hum.2020.196] [abs].
  • Gamboa Arana, OL; Palmer, H; Dannhauer, M; Hile, C; Liu, S; Hamdan, R; Brito, A; Cabeza, R; Davis, SW; Peterchev, AV; Sommer, MA; Appelbaum, LG, Intensity- and timing-dependent modulation of motion perception with transcranial magnetic stimulation of visual cortex., Neuropsychologia, vol 147 (2020) [10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2020.107581] [abs].
  • 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].

Lectures and Invited Talks

  • New Faculty Lecture Series,