Marc A. Sommer

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

  • Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Associate Professor in Neurobiology
  • Associate of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society
  • Member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Investigator in the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences

Contact Information

  • Office Location: 1427 Ciemas, Box 90281, 101 Science Dr., Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: +1 919 684 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.

Courses Taught

  • NEUROSCI 755: Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Neuroscience (IPCN) Independent Research Rotation
  • NEUROSCI 517: Neuronal Control of Movement (GE, EL)
  • NEUROSCI 494: Research Independent Study 2
  • NEUROSCI 493: Research Independent Study 1
  • BME 792: Continuation of Graduate Independent Study
  • BME 791: Graduate Independent Study
  • BME 601L: Introduction to Neural Engineering
  • BME 517: Neuronal Control of Movement (GE, EL)
  • BME 494: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 493: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Yu, Gene, Federico Ranieri, Vincenzo Di Lazzaro, Marc Sommer, Angel Peterchev, and Warren Grill. “Circuits and Mechanisms for TMS-Induced Corticospinal Waves: Connecting Sensitivity Analysis to the Network Graph.” BioRxiv, 2024.
  • Subramanian, Divya, John M. Pearson, and Marc A. Sommer. “Bayesian and Discriminative Models for Active Visual Perception across Saccades.” ENeuro 10, no. 7 (July 2023).
  • Daw, Tierney B., Hala G. El-Nahal, Michele A. Basso, Elizabeth J. Jun, Alex R. Bautista, R Jude Samulski, Marc A. Sommer, and Martin O. Bohlen. “Direct Comparison of Epifluorescence and Immunostaining for Assessing Viral Mediated Gene Expression in the Primate Brain.” Human Gene Therapy 34, no. 5–6 (March 2023): 228–46.
  • Daw, Tierney B., Hala G. El-Nahal, Michele A. Basso, Elizabeth J. Jun, Alex R. Bautista, R Jude Samulski, Marc A. Sommer, and Martin O. Bohlen. “Direct comparison of epifluorescence and immunostaining for assessing viral mediated gene expression in the primate brain.” Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, October 7, 2022.
  • Goetz, Stefan M., Bryan Howell, Boshuo Wang, Zhongxi Li, Marc A. Sommer, Angel V. Peterchev, and Warren M. Grill. “Isolating two sources of variability of subcortical stimulation to quantify fluctuations of corticospinal tract excitability.” Clin Neurophysiol 138 (June 2022): 134–42.