John Pearson

John Pearson

Assistant Professor of Biostatistics & 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

Motor Modulation of Auditory Processing awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co Investigator). 2020 to 2025

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

Neurocomputational Approaches to Emotion Representation awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co Investigator). 2020 to 2024

Receptive field coordination across mosaics of diverse retinal ganglion cell types in the mammalian retina awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co Investigator). 2020 to 2024

Corticostriatal contributions to motor exploration and reinforcement awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co-Principal Investigator). 2020 to 2023

Adaptive Algorithms for Automated Circuit Dissection awarded by The Swartz Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2020 to 2022

Medical Scientist Training Program awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 1997 to 2022

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

Neural Circuit Mechanisms Mediating TMS and Oxytocin Effects on Social Cognition awarded by University of Pennsylvania (Principal Investigator). 2016 to 2022


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

O’Neill, Kevin, et al. “Confidence and gradation in causal judgment.Cognition, vol. 223, June 2022, p. 105036. Pubmed, doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2022.105036. Full Text

Vihani, Aashutosh, et al. Encoding of odors by mammalian olfactory receptors. Dec. 2021. Epmc, doi:10.1101/2021.12.27.474279. Full Text

Singh Alvarado, Jonnathan, et al. “Neural dynamics underlying birdsong practice and performance.Nature, vol. 599, no. 7886, Nov. 2021, pp. 635–39. Pubmed, doi:10.1038/s41586-021-04004-1. Full Text

Jun, Na Young, et al. “Scene statistics and noise determine the relative arrangement of receptive field mosaics.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, vol. 118, no. 39, Sept. 2021. Pubmed, doi:10.1073/pnas.2105115118. Full Text

Goffinet, Jack, et al. “Low-dimensional learned feature spaces quantify individual and group differences in vocal repertoires.Elife, vol. 10, May 2021. Pubmed, doi:10.7554/eLife.67855. Full Text

de Albuquerque, Daniela, et al. Deep Generative Analysis for Task-Based Functional MRI Experiments. Apr. 2021. Epmc, doi:10.1101/2021.04.04.438365. Full Text

Roy, Suva, et al. “Inter-mosaic coordination of retinal receptive fields.Nature, vol. 592, no. 7854, Apr. 2021, pp. 409–13. Pubmed, doi:10.1038/s41586-021-03317-5. Full Text

Jun, Na Young, et al. The optimal spatial arrangement of ON and OFF receptive fields. Mar. 2021. Epmc, doi:10.1101/2021.03.10.434612. Full Text

Yoo, Seng Bum Michael, et al. “Continuous decisions.Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, vol. 376, no. 1819, Mar. 2021, p. 20190664. Pubmed, doi:10.1098/rstb.2019.0664. Full Text


Draelos, A., and J. M. Pearson. “Online neural connectivity estimation with noisy group testing.” Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems, vol. 2020-December, 2020.