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Georgetown University


Detailed Course Information


Fall 2017
Jan 20, 2018
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Information Select the desired Level or Schedule Type to find available classes for the course.

NSCI 526 - Computational Neuroscience
Seemingly without effort, the human brain solves computationally very complex cognitive tasks such as recognizing facial expressions, understanding speech, planning and executing sequences of movements, or choosing actions from a range of competing alternatives to maximize the likelihood of reward in a given situation. What are the neural mechanisms that give rise to these behaviors? Given that many cognitive tasks are too varied to be coded genetically, how does experience serve to modify processing at a neural level to improve behavioral performance? How can cognitive processing be optimized “on the fly” for particular tasks? This class will examine these and related questions, showing how cognitive processing across a variety of areas can be grounded in a small number of key neurocomputational principles. Emphasis will be placed on showing how these principles apply to a variety of cognitive domains, including vision, audition, memory, motor control, and decision making. The goal of this introductory class is to convey the underlying computational ideas with a minimum of mathematical overhead, stressing their usefulness even for areas of cognition where data are still insufficient to constrain quantitative models.

Classes will be three hours.  Each class will consist of a lecture by Dr. Riesenhuber on the topic du jour and student-led presentations and discussions of research papers (3 papers of 20-30 minutes of presentation & discussion each). These presentations should include critical analyses of the methods and results, along with a discussion of the implications of the findings. Presenters should feel free to discuss questions about their papers with the course director in advance of their presentation.  All class members will be expected to have read these papers before class and to come prepared with relevant questions/comments/ideas for the discussion.

A final project will be due on the last day of the course. The final project will take the form of a research grant proposal and a 15-minute presentation on a computational cognitive neuroscience project chosen from any area of cognition. The project should aim to test (either experimentally or through simulations) a computational hypothesis about the neural bases of a particular cognitive function. The proposal needs to include specific aims of the research grant, background information about the aspect of vision studied, and a description of a series of experiments to address the specific aims. The proposal must include a discussion of what conclusions can be made depending on various outcomes of the experiments. The proposals should be between 10-15 double-spaced pages in length. An outline of the proposal must be approved by Dr. Riesenhuber before the final paper is written.
Participants’ grade will depend on three paper presentations (30%, 3 @ 10%), participation in discussions (30%), and the final project (40%; 30% write-up, 10% presentation).

Class meets Tuesdays 1-4pm.

2.000 Credit hours
2.000 Lecture hours
0.000 Lab hours

Levels: MN or MC Graduate, Undergraduate
Schedule Types: Lecture

Neuroscience Department

Must be enrolled in one of the following Levels:     
      MN or MC Graduate

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