John Michael Pearson


Assistant Professor of Biostatistics & Bioinformatics

My research focuses on the application of machine learning methods to the analysis of brain data and behavior. I have a special interest in the neurobiology of reward and decision-making, particularly issues surrounding foraging, impulsivity, and self-control. More generally, I am interested in computational principles underlying brain organization at the mesoscale, and work in my lab studies phenomena that range from complex social behaviors to coding principles of the retina.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Assistant Professor of Biostatistics & Bioinformatics
  • Assistant Research Professor in Neurobiology
  • Member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience

Contact Information

  • Office Location: Levine Science Research Center, B255, Durham, NC 27710
  • Office Phone: (919) 613-8338
  • Email Address:
  • Websites:


  • Ph.D. Princeton University, 2004
  • B.S. University of Kentucky, Lexington, 1999

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Gordon G. Hammes Faculty Teaching Award. Duke University School of Medicine. 2020

Courses Taught

  • EGR 491: Projects in Engineering
  • NEUROBIO 393: Research Independent Study
  • NEUROBIO 735: Quantitative Approaches in Neurobiology
  • NEUROBIO 793: Research in Neurobiology
  • NEUROSCI 493: Research Independent Study 1
  • NEUROSCI 494: Research Independent Study 2
  • NEUROSCI 755: Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Neuroscience (IPCN) Independent Research Rotation

In the News

Representative Publications

  • O'Neill, K; Henne, P; Bello, P; Pearson, J; De Brigard, F, Confidence and gradation in causal judgment., Cognition, vol 223 (2022) [10.1016/j.cognition.2022.105036] [abs].
  • Martinez, M; Pearson, J, Reproducible, incremental representation learning with Rosetta VAE (2022) [abs].
  • Vihani, A; Nagai, M; Juan, C; de March, C; Hu, X; Pearson, J; Matsunami, H, Encoding of odors by mammalian olfactory receptors (2021) [10.1101/2021.12.27.474279] [abs].
  • Singh Alvarado, J; Goffinet, J; Michael, V; Liberti, W; Hatfield, J; Gardner, T; Pearson, J; Mooney, R, Neural dynamics underlying birdsong practice and performance., Nature, vol 599 no. 7886 (2021), pp. 635-639 [10.1038/s41586-021-04004-1] [abs].
  • Jun, NY; Field, GD; Pearson, J, Scene statistics and noise determine the relative arrangement of receptive field mosaics., Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, vol 118 no. 39 (2021) [10.1073/pnas.2105115118] [abs].