Computational Neuroscience (APSC 450) Spring 2019

ISC 1280 – Tuesday & Thursday – 11:00am-12:20pm
Greg Conradi Smith – Applied Science & Neuroscience

What is Computational Neuroscience?

Computational Neuroscience has two facets:

  • Development of realistic computational models of neural phenomena, and
  • Understanding how nervous systems compute and process information.

Our approach to computational neuroscience will recapitulate the three levels of inquiry suggested by the visual neuroscientist David Marr:

  • Computational: What computations does the central nervous system perform and why?
  • Algorithmic: What representations and procedures are used in the neural computation?
  • Implementation: What the physiological mechanisms that bring about these representations and carry out these algorithms?

We will use Marr’s framework to explore the computational function of the brain – hindbrain, hippocampus, thalamus, basal ganglia, and visual cortex – emphasizing how theory complements experiment in systems neuroscience.

Prerequisites: APSC 351 Cellular Biophysics and Modeling or permission of instructor.

What to expect

This is a seminar-style course with readings from scientific literature, discussion and critical analysis, lecture, and student projects and presentations.

The intended audience is neuroscience majors who are interested in computational and systems neuroscience, but may not have formal training in mathematics and computational methods.

There are no required textbook purchases.   Readings will be drawn from the primary scientific literature will be supplemented by select passages from computational neuroscience textbooks.

Evaluation and projects

A serious engagement with the lectures, readings, videos, and assigned problems is absolutely required.  This will be assessed as follows.

Scientific notebook  (15%)

Bring your Notebook and relevant readings to class.  Questions, observations and notes written in response to required readings must be completed prior to each class.

If asked to upload materials in preparation for class, this should occur by the end of the previous day (to allow time for the instructor or other students to review prior to class).  That is, if an activity is assigned that is needed for discussion during class on Tuesday, then upload by 11:59pm Monday. If needed for class Thursday, then upload by 11:59pm Wednesday.

Participation (15%)

This is a discussion and lecture course (in that order). Attendance is required. You are expected to listen and speak.  Email me in advance if you are going to miss class. This can happen up to 2 times in the semester without negatively affecting your participation grade.

Midterm project (20%)

The midterm project will be a written, oral or video review of a suggested reading related to the course objectives.  Book choice will occur about 1/4 of the way through the semester.  Due date will be about 1/2 way through the semester.

Term project (50%)

Your term project will involve independent library research and deep intellectual engagement with a computational aspect of central nervous system function of interest to you.

The project will be evaluated through

  • a preliminary written project proposal (5% of final grade),
  • an oral progress report (15%), and
  • a final deliverable (30%).

Project proposals will be due shortly after the midterm project and must be approved by the instructor. The oral progress report will occur about 3/4 of the way through the semester. The final written report should be completed before final exam week ends.

Late work will not be evaluated without a letter from a Dean with a specific request and justification. Serious schedule conflicts may be resolved by arranging to complete assignments earlier than required, but this will occur at the instructor’s discretion.

Students are always evaluated with reference to course objectives, never by relative performance.

Collaboration on assignments is encouraged, but do so in a way that scales properly.  For example, if 2 questions on a reading are expected, three of you can join forces, talk, and together contribute 6 questions.   Unless approved by the instructor beforehand, the term project should represent independent work.

Violations of academic integrity will be pursued within the W&M Honor System.

ADA Accommodation

The relationship between numerical and letter grades is as follows.