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

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.

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

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

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

  • Goswami, N; Shen, M; Gomez, LJ; Dannhauer, M; Sommer, MA; Peterchev, AV, A semi-automated pipeline for finite element modeling of electric field induced in nonhuman primates by transcranial magnetic stimulation., J Neurosci Methods, vol 408 (2024) [10.1016/j.jneumeth.2024.110176] [abs].
  • Yu, G; Ranieri, F; Lazzaro, VD; Sommer, M; Peterchev, A; Grill, W, Circuits and Mechanisms for TMS-Induced Corticospinal Waves: Connecting Sensitivity Analysis to the Network Graph (2024) [10.1101/2024.03.05.583549] [abs].
  • Subramanian, D; Pearson, JM; Sommer, MA, Bayesian and Discriminative Models for Active Visual Perception across Saccades., eNeuro, vol 10 no. 7 (2023) [10.1523/ENEURO.0403-22.2023] [abs].
  • 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., Human gene therapy, vol 34 no. 5-6 (2023), pp. 228-246 [10.1089/hum.2022.194] [abs].
  • 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].