Center of Excellence for Learning in Education, Science and Technology A National Science Foundation Science of Learning Center

Course Highlight

CAS CN210 / NE204 Introduction to Computational Models of Brain and Behavior

A core requirement in the new Undergraduate Program in Neuroscience at Boston University, this course serves as an introduction to important concepts in cognitive neuroscience and computational modeling of biological neural systems, combining a systems-level overview of brain function with an introduction to modeling of brain and behavior using neural networks.

This course was introduced in Spring 2009 by CELEST Governing Board member Frank Guenther. That a computationally-oriented course is one of three required core courses in an undergraduate major is in no way typical of how neuroscience is taught. Moreover, its 40 students reported great excitement about the new perspective introduced by the course, with many expressing explicit relief that the “math-y” concepts were understandable, and several noting in course reviews that they would be taking additional mathematics or computer science courses as a result of exposure to the course. The students were particularly pleased that this was a “lab” course, with a weekly hour-long “hands on” encounter with computer simulations of simple neural models of cognitive processes.

CELEST’s involvement in NE210/CN204 was instrumental to the course’s success. A CELEST-supported graduate student, Sean Lorenz, worked half-time through the summer of 2008 and the fall semester of 2008 to develop teaching materials, most notably the computer simulations used by the students during the weekly lab period. Another CELEST-supported student, Tim Barnes, was the teaching fellow who taught the lab sections. This student’s dedication was noted by all involved in the course and was recognized by a departmental teaching fellow award.

For pointers to other courses at Boston University of interest to CELEST students, please visit the Department of Cognitive and Neural Systems courses page.