John Michael Pearson


Assistant Professor of Biostatistics and 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 and Bioinformatics
  • Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Assistant Research Professor in Neurobiology
  • Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • 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

  • 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 495: Research Independent Study 3
  • NEUROSCI 755: Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Neuroscience (IPCN) Independent Research Rotation
  • PSY 755: Research Practicum

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Michael, V; Goffinet, J; Pearson, J; Wang, F; Tschida, K; Mooney, R, Circuit and synaptic organization of forebrain-to-midbrain pathways that promote and suppress vocalization., Elife, vol 9 (2020) [10.7554/eLife.63493] [abs].
  • Addicott, MA; Pearson, JM; Schechter, JC; Sapyta, JJ; Weiss, MD; Kollins, SH, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and the explore/exploit trade-off., Neuropsychopharmacology (2020) [10.1038/s41386-020-00881-8] [abs].
  • Mohl, JT; Pearson, JM; Groh, JM, Monkeys and humans implement causal inference to simultaneously localize auditory and visual stimuli., J Neurophysiol, vol 124 no. 3 (2020), pp. 715-727 [10.1152/jn.00046.2020] [abs].
  • McDonald, KR; Pearson, JM; Huettel, SA, Dorsolateral and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex track distinct properties of dynamic social behavior., Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci, vol 15 no. 4 (2020), pp. 383-393 [10.1093/scan/nsaa053] [abs].
  • Mohl, J; Pearson, J; Groh, J, Monkeys and Humans Implement Causal Inference to Simultaneously Localize Auditory and Visual Stimuli (2019) [10.1101/823385] [abs].