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Professor John Duncan FRS FBA

Professor John Duncan, FRS FBA

MRC Programme Leader

Office Phone: 01223 273660


Educated at the University of Oxford (1970-1976), John Duncan spent two years at the University of Oregon working with Professor Michael Posner before taking up a research position with the Medical Research Council.  He now holds positions as Programme Leader at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, and Professorial Research Fellow in the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford.  Integrating across cognitive theory, neuropsychology, neuroimaging, and single cell physiology in the behaving monkey, his research addresses problems of attention, intelligence and cognitive control.  For 20 years, he has managed a large patient resource for lesion-function mapping in the Cambridge community, addressing problems of recruitment, lesion definition, brain normalization and brain-behaviour correlation.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the British Academy, and winner of the 2012 Heineken Prize in cognitive science.

Departments and Institutes


Research Interests

Cognitive neuroscience of attention and intelligence.

Key Publications

Duncan, J. (1980).  The locus of interference in the perception of simultaneous stimuli.  Psychological Review, 87, 272-300.

Duncan, J. (1984).  Selective attention and the organization of visual information.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 113, 501-517.

Duncan, J., & Humphreys, G. W. (1989).  Visual search and stimulus similarity.  Psychological Review, 96, 433-458.

Chelazzi, L., Miller, E. K., Duncan, J., & Desimone, R. (1993).  A neural basis for visual search in inferior temporal cortex.  Nature, 363, 345-347.

Desimone, R., & Duncan, J. (1995).  Neural mechanisms of selective visual attention.  Annual Review of Neuroscience, 18, 193-222.

Duncan, J., Emslie, H., Williams, P., Johnson, R., & Freer, C. (1996).  Intelligence and the frontal lobe: The organization of goal-directed behavior.  Cognitive Psychology, 30, 257-303.

Duncan, J., Bundesen, C., Olson, A., Humphreys, G., Chavda, S., & Shibuya, H. (1999).  Systematic analysis of deficits in visual attention.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 128, 450-478.

Duncan, J., Seitz, R. J., Kolodny, J., Bor, D., Herzog, H., Ahmed, A., Newell, F. N., & Emslie, H. (2000).  A neural basis for general intelligence.  Science, 289, 457-460.

Duncan, J., & Owen, A. M.  (2000).  Common regions of the human frontal lobe recruited by diverse cognitive demands.  Trends in Neurosciences, 23, 475-483.

Duncan, J. (2001).  An adaptive coding model of neural function in prefrontal cortex.  Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2, 820-829.

Stokes, M., Kusunoki, M., Sigala, N., Nili, H., Gaffan, D., & Duncan, J. (2013).  Dynamic coding for cognitive control in prefrontal cortex.  Neuron, 78, 364-375.

Duncan, J. (2013).  The structure of cognition: Attentional episodes in mind and brain.  Neuron, 80, 35-50.