John Pearson

John Pearson

Assistant Professor of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics

External Address: 
Levine Science Research Center, B255, Durham, NC 27710
Internal Office Address: 
Duke Box 90999, Durham, NC 27708


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.

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Princeton University 2004

  • B.S., University of Kentucky, Lexington 1999

Selected Grants

Neurobiology Training Program awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 2019 to 2024

Quantitative Methods for HIV/AIDS Research awarded by National Institutes of Health (Training Faculty). 2018 to 2023

Real-time, all-optical interrogation of neural microcircuitry in the pretectum awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co-Principal Investigator). 2020 to 2022

Computational Modeling of Decision Making by Prosecutors and Jurors in Criminal Justice awarded by National Science Foundation (Co Investigator). 2017 to 2021

Neural Circuit Mechanisms Mediating TMS and Oxytocin Effects on Social Cognition awarded by University of Pennsylvania (Principal Investigator). 2016 to 2021

Nonparametric Bayes Methods for Big Data in Neuroscience awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2019

Mechanisms of Parkinsonian Impulsivity in Human Subthalamic Nucleus awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2017

Animal Model of Genetics and Social Behavior in Autism Spectrum Disorders awarded by National Institutes of Health (Advisor). 2012 to 2016

Contributions of Areas LIP and VIP to Numerical Behavior awarded by National Institutes of Health (Research Associate). 2009 to 2013

Chang, S. W. C., et al. “Neuroethology of primate social behavior.” In the Light of Evolution, vol. 7, 2014, pp. 115–34. Scopus, doi:10.17226/18573. Full Text

McDonald, Kelsey R., et al. “Dorsolateral and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex track distinct properties of dynamic social behavior.Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci, vol. 15, no. 4, June 2020, pp. 383–93. Pubmed, doi:10.1093/scan/nsaa053. Full Text

Goffinet, Jack, et al. Inferring low-dimensional latent descriptions of animal vocalizations. Oct. 2019. Epmc, doi:10.1101/811661. Full Text

McDonald, K. R., and J. M. Pearson. “Cognitive bots and algorithmic humans: toward a shared understanding of social intelligence.” Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, vol. 29, Oct. 2019, pp. 55–62. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.cobeha.2019.04.013. Full Text

McDonald, Kelsey R., et al. “Bayesian nonparametric models characterize instantaneous strategies in a competitive dynamic game.Nat Commun, vol. 10, no. 1, Apr. 2019, p. 1808. Pubmed, doi:10.1038/s41467-019-09789-4. Full Text

Iqbal, Shariq N., et al. “Latent goal models for dynamic strategic interaction.Plos Comput Biol, vol. 15, no. 3, Mar. 2019, p. e1006895. Pubmed, doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1006895. Full Text

Pearson, John M., et al. “Modelling the effects of crime type and evidence on judgments about guilt.Nat Hum Behav, vol. 2, no. 11, Nov. 2018, pp. 856–66. Open Access Copy

Lighthall, Nichole R., et al. “Feedback-Based Learning in Aging: Contributions and Trajectories of Change in Striatal and Hippocampal Systems.J Neurosci, vol. 38, no. 39, Sept. 2018, pp. 8453–62. Pubmed, doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0769-18.2018. Full Text

Pearson, John. “Queuing cues in rapid cortical processing.Nat Hum Behav, vol. 2, no. 9, Sept. 2018, pp. 620–21. Pubmed, doi:10.1038/s41562-018-0427-z. Full Text

Addicott, M. A., et al. “A Primer on Foraging and the Explore/Exploit Trade-Off for Psychiatry Research.Neuropsychopharmacology, vol. 42, no. 10, Sept. 2017, pp. 1931–39. Pubmed, doi:10.1038/npp.2017.108. Full Text