Marty Woldorff, PhD, PI
Primary Investigator
Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Professor in Neurobiology
Member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
Associate of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society
Affiliate of the Center for Brain Imaging and Analysis
Contact Information

Woldorff Lab

We use a combination of electrophysiological (ERP, EEG) and functional neuroimaging (fMRI) methods to study the mechanisms of attention and related cognitive processes in humans. Themes include: (1) Attentional and cognitive control; (2) Attentional modulation of perceptual processes; (3) Influence of training on attention; (4) The relationships between attention and reward.

Our primary focus is the understanding of the neural and psychological mechanisms underlying human attentional, perceptual, and cognitive processes. To study these phenomena, we employ a combination of various techniques to measure brain activity, such as event-related potentials (ERPs) and functional MRI (fMRI), while subjects are engaged in cognitive and perceptual tasks.

Woldorff Research

Woldorff Research

Mission and Approach

The research in the Woldorff Lab at Duke is aimed toward the elucidation of the neural and psychological mechanisms underlying human perception and cognition, with particularly strong interests in the mechanisms of auditory and visual attention and perception.

To study these phenomena we use various brain imaging techniques, principally event-related potentials (ERPs) and functional MRI (fMRI), along with concomitant recording of behavioral measures. We also have ongoing international collaborations with laboratories employing whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG).

Our general view is that each of the brain imaging methodologies provides an important but incomplete measure of brain function and activity, and that the most powerful approach is the combined application of several of them.  [Attention effects on cortical surface] For example, hemodynamic (i.e., blood-change based) measures of brain activity (e.g., fMRI) are very good at showing which areas of the brain are activated under one sort of a task versus another, or even by one sort of event type vs. another, but they generally provide temporal information only on the order of seconds. Since many perceptual, attentional, and cognitive brain operations occur on the order of tens or hundreds of milliseconds, fMRI (at least in its present form) provides relatively little information on the time course or sequence of the functional brain activations underlying such operations.

ERPs and MEG, on the other hand, although they have substantially coarser spatial resolution, [Localization of N20-50 attention effect]  provide a millisecond-by-millisecond reflection of evoked brain activity, thereby providing high resolution timing information. In addition, anatomical MRI provides extremely high-resolution images of the neuroanatomical structures of the brain. Thus, combining these approaches holds the promise of revealing not only which neuroanatomical structures are activated during various mental functions, but also what the time course and sequence of these activations are. Such 4-D spatial / temporal information is critical to develop full-fledged neural and cognitive models of brain function.

The study of attentional, perceptual, and other cognitive processes using such a combined multi-methodological approach is the major aim of our research.

Woldorff Publications

Demeter, Elise, Brittany Glassberg, Marissa L. Gamble, and Marty G. Woldorff. “Reward magnitude enhances early attentional processing of auditory stimuli.” Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci 22, no. 2 (April 2022): 268–80.

Siqi-Liu, Audrey, Tobias Egner, and Marty G. Woldorff. “Neural Dynamics of Context-sensitive Adjustments in Cognitive Flexibility.” J Cogn Neurosci 34, no. 3 (February 1, 2022): 480–94.

Berger, Miles, Jeffrey N. Browndyke, Mary Cooter Wright, Chloe Nobuhara, Melody Reese, Leah Acker, W Michael Bullock, et al. “Postoperative changes in cognition and cerebrospinal fluid neurodegenerative disease biomarkers.” Ann Clin Transl Neurol 9, no. 2 (February 2022): 155–70.

Browndyke, Jeffrey N., Mary C. Wright, Rosa Yang, Ayesha Syed, John Park, Ashley Hall, Katherine Martucci, et al. “Perioperative neurocognitive and functional neuroimaging trajectories in older APOE4 carriers compared with non-carriers: secondary analysis of a prospective cohort study.” Br J Anaesth 127, no. 6 (December 2021): 917–28.

Park, Joonkoo, Sonia Godbole, Marty G. Woldorff, and Elizabeth M. Brannon. “Context-Dependent Modulation of Early Visual Cortical Responses to Numerical and Nonnumerical Magnitudes.” J Cogn Neurosci 33, no. 12 (November 5, 2021): 2536–47.

Vo, Khoi D., Audrey Siqi-Liu, Alondra Chaire, Sophia Li, Elise Demeter, Tobias Egner, and Marty G. Woldorff. “Neural Dynamics of Conflict Control in Working Memory.” J Cogn Neurosci 33, no. 10 (September 1, 2021): 2079–92.

Geib, B. R., R. Cabeza, and M. G. Woldorff. “Linking the Rapid Cascade of Visuo-Attentional Processes to Successful Memory Encoding.” Cereb Cortex 31, no. 4 (March 5, 2021): 1861–72.

Berg, Berry van den, Marlon de Jong, Marty G. Woldorff, and Monicque M. Lorist. “Caffeine Boosts Preparatory Attention for Reward-related Stimulus Information.” J Cogn Neurosci 33, no. 1 (January 2021): 104–18.

Haan, Tineke de, Berry van den Berg, Marty G. Woldorff, André Aleman, and Monicque M. Lorist. “Diminished Feedback Evaluation and Knowledge Updating Underlying Age-Related Differences in Choice Behavior During Feedback Learning.” Front Hum Neurosci 15 (2021): 635996.

Bachman, Matthew D., Madison N. Hunter, Scott A. Huettel, and Marty G. Woldorff. “Disruptions of Sustained Spatial Attention Can Be Resistant to the Distractor's Prior Reward Associations.” Front Hum Neurosci 15 (2021): 666731.

Woldorff Opportunities

Postdoctoral positions in the cognitive neuroscience of attention and perception. Woldorff Lab, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University.

We are currently accepting applications for several postdoctoral positions. We employ behavioral, electrophysiological (ERP, MEG), and functional MRI (fMRI) methods to investigate the cognitive and neural mechanisms of visual, auditory, and multisensory attention and perception. Excellent research resources and environment, including high-density ERP recording facilities and state-of-the-art 3T and 4T MRI scanners fully dedicated to neuroimaging research. Nearby clinical resources include Duke Hospital and the adjacent Durham VA Hospital. International collaborative arrangements also allow for full access to state-of-the-art MEG facilities. Desirable candidates will have a background in attention and/or perception research, some expertise in either fMRI or ERP (or MEG) methods, and strong computer skills. For additional information, contact Dr. Woldorff at To apply, please email a cover letter, a CV, and contact information for three potential references to:

Marty Woldorff, Ph.D. 
Associate Director, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University 
Box 90999, Durham, NC 27708-0999. 
Tel: 919-681-0604, Fax: 919-681-0815.

Contact Woldorff Lab

The Center for Cognitive Neuroscience is housed in the Levine Science Research Center on Duke University's West Campus.

Woldorff Laboratory:
Tel: (919) 668-1334
Fax: (919)681-0815
Center tel: (919) 668-2512

Marty Woldorff:
Office tel: (919) 681-0604

To contact Roy Crist:
Office tel: (919) 668-3608

To contact Daniel Weissman:
Office tel: (919) 684-3435

Mailing Address:
Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
Box 90999, Duke University
LSRC Bldg, Rm B203
Durham, NC 27708-0999

Fax: (919) 681-0815
Center tel: (919) 668-2512