Professor John Duncan

John Duncan

University position


Professor John Duncan is pleased to consider applications from prospective PhD students.


MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit

Home page

Research Theme

Cognitive and Behavioural Neuroscience


Brain basis for attention, intelligence and cognitive control; including studies of normal cognition and behaviour, impairments following brain damage, functional brain imaging, and single cell electrophysiology.

For John Duncan's popular science book How Intelligence Happens see

Research Focus





frontal lobe


Clinical conditions

Cognitive impairment



Behavioural analysis

Electrophysiological recording techniques

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)


No collaborators listed

Associated News Items

    Key publications

    Duncan J, Seitz RJ, Kolodny J, Bor D, Herzog H, Ahmed A, Newell FN, Emslie H (2000), “A neural basis for general intelligence” Science 289:457-460



    Bhandari A, Duncan J (2014), “Goal neglect and knowledge chunking in the construction of novel behaviour.” Cognition 130(1):11-30 Details

    Roca M, Manes F, Cetkovich M, Bruno D, Ibáñez A, Torralva T, Duncan J (2014), “The relationship between executive functions and fluid intelligence in schizophrenia.” Front Behav Neurosci 8:46 Details


    Duncan J (2013), “The structure of cognition: attentional episodes in mind and brain.” Neuron 80(1):35-50 Details

    Fedorenko E, Duncan J, Kanwisher N (2013), “Broad domain generality in focal regions of frontal and parietal cortex.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110(41):16616-21 Details

    Kadohisa M, Petrov P, Stokes M, Sigala N, Buckley M, Gaffan D, Kusunoki M, Duncan J (2013), “Dynamic construction of a coherent attentional state in a prefrontal cell population.” Neuron 80(1):235-46 Details

    Roca M, Manes F, Gleichgerrcht E, Watson P, Ibáñez A, Thompson R, Torralva T, Duncan J (2013), “Intelligence and executive functions in frontotemporal dementia.” Neuropsychologia Details

    Stokes MG, Kusunoki M, Sigala N, Nili H, Gaffan D, Duncan J (2013), “Dynamic coding for cognitive control in prefrontal cortex.” Neuron 78(2):364-75 Details


    Crittenden BM, Duncan J (2012), “Task Difficulty Manipulation Reveals Multiple Demand Activity but no Frontal Lobe Hierarchy.” Cereb Cortex Details

    Duncan J, Schramm M, Thompson R, Dumontheil I (2012), “Task rules, working memory, and fluid intelligence.” Psychon Bull Rev 19(5):864-70 Details

    Farooqui AA, Mitchell D, Thompson R, Duncan J (2012), “Hierarchical organization of cognition reflected in distributed frontoparietal activity.” J Neurosci 32(48):17373-81 Details

    Fedorenko E, Duncan J, Kanwisher N (2012), “Language-selective and domain-general regions lie side by side within Broca's area.” Curr Biol 22(21):2059-62 Details

    Rodríguez V, Thompson R, Stokes M, Brett M, Alvarez I, Valdes-Sosa M, Duncan J (2012), “Absence of face-specific cortical activity in the complete absence of awareness: converging evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging and event-related potentials.” J Cogn Neurosci 24(2):396-415 Details

    Stoewer S, Goense J, Keliris GA, Bartels A, Logothetis NK, Duncan J, Sigala N (2012), “An analysis approach for high-field fMRI data from awake non-human primates.” PLoS One 7(1):e29697 Details


    Dumontheil I, Thompson R, Duncan J (2011), “Assembly and use of new task rules in fronto-parietal cortex.” J Cogn Neurosci 23(1):168-82 Details

    Hampshire A, Thompson R, Duncan J, Owen AM (2011), “Lateral prefrontal cortex subregions make dissociable contributions during fluid reasoning.” Cereb Cortex 21(1):1-10 Details

    Roca M, Torralva T, Gleichgerrcht E, Woolgar A, Thompson R, Duncan J, Manes F (2011), “The role of Area 10 (BA10) in human multitasking and in social cognition: a lesion study.” Neuropsychologia 49(13):3525-31 Details

    Stoewer S, Goense J, Keliris GA, Bartels A, Logothetis NK, Duncan J, Sigala N (2011), “Realignment strategies for awake-monkey fMRI data.” Magn Reson Imaging 29(10):1390-400 Details

    Woolgar A, Hampshire A, Thompson R, Duncan J (2011), “Adaptive coding of task-relevant information in human frontoparietal cortex.” J Neurosci 31(41):14592-9 Details


    Duncan J (2010), “The multiple-demand (MD) system of the primate brain: mental programs for intelligent behaviour.” Trends Cogn Sci 14(4):172-9 Details

    Hampshire A, Chamberlain SR, Monti MM, Duncan J, Owen AM (2010), “The role of the right inferior frontal gyrus: inhibition and attentional control.” Neuroimage 50(3):1313-9 Details

    Roca M, Parr A, Thompson R, Woolgar A, Torralva T, Antoun N, Manes F, Duncan J (2010), “Executive function and fluid intelligence after frontal lobe lesions.” Brain 133(Pt 1):234-47 Details

    Stoewer S, Ku SP, Goense J, Steudel T, Logothetis NK, Duncan J, Sigala N (2010), “Frontoparietal activity with minimal decision and control in the awake macaque at 7 T.” Magn Reson Imaging 28(8):1120-8 Details

    Woolgar A, Parr A, Cusack R, Thompson R, Nimmo-Smith I, Torralva T, Roca M, Antoun N, Manes F, Duncan J (2010), “Fluid intelligence loss linked to restricted regions of damage within frontal and parietal cortex.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 107(33):14899-902 Details

    Woolgar A, Thompson R, Bor D, Duncan J (2010), “Multi-voxel coding of stimuli, rules, and responses in human frontoparietal cortex.” Neuroimage Details


    Cusack R, Mitchell DJ, Duncan J (2009), “Discrete Object Representation, Attention Switching, and Task Difficulty in the Parietal Lobe.” J Cogn Neurosci Details

    Hampshire A, Thompson R, Duncan J, Owen AM (2009), “Selective tuning of the right inferior frontal gyrus during target detection.” Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci 9(1):103-12 Details

    Hon N, Thompson R, Sigala N, Duncan J (2009), “Evidence for long-range feedback in target detection: Detection of semantic targets modulates activity in early visual areas.” Neuropsychologia 47(7):1721-7 Details

    Kusunoki M, Sigala N, Gaffan D, Duncan J (2009), “Detection of Fixed and Variable Targets in the Monkey Prefrontal Cortex.” Cereb Cortex Details

    Kusunoki M, Sigala N, Nili H, Gaffan D, Duncan J (2009), “Target Detection by Opponent Coding in Monkey Prefrontal Cortex.” J Cogn Neurosci Details

    Stokes M, Thompson R, Cusack R, Duncan J (2009), “Top-down activation of shape-specific population codes in visual cortex during mental imagery.” J Neurosci 29(5):1565-72 Details

    Stokes M, Thompson R, Nobre AC, Duncan J (2009), “Shape-specific preparatory activity mediates attention to targets in human visual cortex.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106(46):19569-74 Details

    Thompson R, Duncan J (2009), “Attentional modulation of stimulus representation in human fronto-parietal cortex.” Neuroimage 48(2):436-48 Details


    Bishop SJ, Fossella J, Croucher CJ, Duncan J (2008), “COMT val158met Genotype Affects Recruitment of Neural Mechanisms Supporting Fluid Intelligence.” Cereb Cortex Details

    Dodds CM, van Belle J, Peers PV, Dove A, Cusack R, Duncan J, Manly T (2008), “The effects of time-on-task and concurrent cognitive load on normal visuospatial bias.” Neuropsychology 22(4):545-52 Details

    Duncan J, Parr A, Woolgar A, Thompson R, Bright P, Cox S, Bishop S, Nimmo-Smith I (2008), “Goal neglect and Spearman's g: competing parts of a complex task.” J Exp Psychol Gen 137(1):131-48 Details

    Hampshire A, Thompson R, Duncan J, Owen AM (2008), “The target selective neural response--similarity, ambiguity, and learning effects.” PLoS ONE 3(6):e2520 Details

    Sigala N, Kusunoki M, Nimmo-Smith I, Gaffan D, Duncan J (2008), “Hierarchical coding for sequential task events in the monkey prefrontal cortex.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 105(33):11969-74 Details


    Hampshire A, Duncan J, Owen AM (2007), “Selective tuning of the blood oxygenation level-dependent response during simple target detection dissociates human frontoparietal subregions.” J Neurosci 27(23):6219-23 Details


    Bor D, Duncan J, Lee AC, Parr A, Owen AM (2006), “Frontal lobe involvement in spatial span: converging studies of normal and impaired function.” Neuropsychologia 44(2):229-37 Details

    Duncan J (2006), “EPS Mid-Career Award 2004: brain mechanisms of attention.” Q J Exp Psychol (Colchester) 59(1):2-27 Details

    Everling S, Tinsley CJ, Gaffan D, Duncan J (2006), “Selective representation of task-relevant objects and locations in the monkey prefrontal cortex.” Eur J Neurosci 23(8):2197-214 Details

    Hein G, Parr A, Duncan J (2006), “Within-modality and cross-modality attentional blinks in a simple discrimination task.” Percept Psychophys 68(1):54-61 Details

    Hon N, Epstein RA, Owen AM, Duncan J (2006), “Frontoparietal activity with minimal decision and control.” J Neurosci 26(38):9805-9 Details

    Peers PV, Cusack R, Duncan J (2006), “Modulation of spatial bias in the dual task paradigm: evidence from patients with unilateral parietal lesions and controls.” Neuropsychologia 44(8):1325-35 Details


    Bourke PA, Duncan J (2005), “Effect of template complexity on visual search and dual-task performance.” Psychol Sci 16(3):208-13 Details

    Duncan J (2005), “Frontal lobe function and general intelligence: why it matters.” Cortex 41(2):215-7 Details

    Peers PV, Ludwig CJ, Rorden C, Cusack R, Bonfiglioli C, Bundesen C, Driver J, Antoun N, Duncan J (2005), “Attentional functions of parietal and frontal cortex.” Cereb Cortex 15(10):1469-84 Details


    Bishop S, Duncan J, Brett M, Lawrence AD (2004), “Prefrontal cortical function and anxiety: controlling attention to threat-related stimuli.” Nat Neurosci 7(2):184-8 Details

    Bishop SJ, Duncan J, Lawrence AD (2004), “State anxiety modulation of the amygdala response to unattended threat-related stimuli.” J Neurosci 24(46):10364-8 Details


    Bor D, Duncan J, Wiseman RJ, Owen AM (2003), “Encoding strategies dissociate prefrontal activity from working memory demand.” Neuron 37(2):361-7 Details


    Arnell KM, Duncan J (2002), “Separate and shared sources of dual-task cost in stimulus identification and response selection.” Cognit Psychol 44(2):105-47 Details

    Everling S, Tinsley CJ, Gaffan D, Duncan J (2002), “Filtering of neural signals by focused attention in the monkey prefrontal cortex.” Nat Neurosci 5(7):671-6 Details

    Hornak J, Duncan J, Gaffan D (2002), “The role of the vertical meridian in visual memory for objects.” Neuropsychologia 40(12):1873-80 Details

    Sheppard DM, Duncan J, Shapiro KL, Hillstrom AP (2002), “Objects and events in the attentional blink.” Psychol Sci 13(5):410-5 Details


    Bor D, Duncan J, Owen AM (2001), “The role of spatial configuration in tests of working memory explored with functional neuroimaging.” Scand J Psychol 42(3):217-24 Details

    Chelazzi L, Miller EK, Duncan J, Desimone R (2001), “Responses of neurons in macaque area V4 during memory-guided visual search.” Cereb Cortex 11(8):761-72 Details

    Duncan J (2001), “An adaptive coding model of neural function in prefrontal cortex.” Nat Rev Neurosci 2(11):820-9 Details


    Duncan J, Owen AM (2000), “Common regions of the human frontal lobe recruited by diverse cognitive demands.” Trends Neurosci 23(10):475-83 Details

    Elvevåg B, Duncan J, McKenna PJ (2000), “The use of cognitive context in schizophrenia: an investigation.” Psychol Med 30(4):885-97 Details

    Vandenberghe R, Duncan J, Arnell KM, Bishop SJ, Herrod NJ, Owen AM, Minhas PS, Dupont P, Pickard JD, Orban GA (2000), “Maintaining and shifting attention within left or right hemifield.” Cereb Cortex 10(7):706-13 Details


    Duncan J, Bundesen C, Olson A, Humphreys G, Chavda S, Shibuya H (1999), “Systematic analysis of deficits in visual attention.” J Exp Psychol Gen 128(4):450-78 Details


    Chelazzi L, Duncan J, Miller EK, Desimone R (1998), “Responses of neurons in inferior temporal cortex during memory-guided visual search.” J Neurophysiol 80(6):2918-40 Details

    Duncan J (1998), “Converging levels of analysis in the cognitive neuroscience of visual attention.” Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 353(1373):1307-17 Details


    Duncan J, Humphreys G, Ward R (1997), “Competitive brain activity in visual attention.” Curr Opin Neurobiol 7(2):255-61 Details

    Duncan J, Martens S, Ward R (1997), “Restricted attentional capacity within but not between sensory modalities.” Nature 387(6635):808-10 Details


    Duncan J, Emslie H, Williams P, Johnson R, Freer C (1996), “Intelligence and the frontal lobe: the organization of goal-directed behavior.” Cognit Psychol 30(3):257-303 Details

    Ward R, Duncan J, Shapiro K (1996), “The Slow Time-Course of Visual Attention” Cognit Psychol 30(1):79-109 Details


    Desimone R, Duncan J (1995), “Neural mechanisms of selective visual attention.” Annu Rev Neurosci 18:193-222 Details

    Duncan J, Burgess P, Emslie H (1995), “Fluid intelligence after frontal lobe lesions.” Neuropsychologia 33(3):261-8 Details


    Duncan J, Ward R, Shapiro K (1994), “Direct measurement of attentional dwell time in human vision.” Nature 369(6478):313-5 Details

    Humphreys GW, Romani C, Olson A, Riddoch MJ, Duncan J (1994), “Non-spatial extinction following lesions of the parietal lobe in humans.” Nature 372(6504):357-9 Details


    Chelazzi L, Miller EK, Duncan J, Desimone R (1993), “A neural basis for visual search in inferior temporal cortex.” Nature 363(6427):345-7 Details

    Duncan J (1993), “Coordination of what and where in visual attention.” Perception 22(11):1261-70 Details


    Duncan J, Humphreys G (1992), “Beyond the search surface: visual search and attentional engagement.” J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 18(2):578-88; discussion 589-93 Details


    Duncan J (1989), “Boundary conditions on parallel processing in human vision.” Perception 18(4):457-69 Details

    Duncan J, Humphreys GW (1989), “Visual search and stimulus similarity.” Psychol Rev 96(3):433-58 Details


    Duncan J (1984), “Selective attention and the organization of visual information.” J Exp Psychol Gen 113(4):501-17 Details


    Duncan J (1980), “The locus of interference in the perception of simultaneous stimuli.” Psychol Rev 87(3):272-300 Details