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

Undergraduate Neuroscience Major at Boston University

CELEST is supporting the development of additional uniquely interdisciplinary courses for Boston University’s new undergraduate neuroscience major. In the Spring Semester of 2010, senior CELEST faculty member Daniel Bullock developed and introduced another new lecture + laboratory course to augment the computational offerings of the undergraduate neuroscience major. This course, NE340/CN340: Introduction to Computational Models of Skilled Decision and Action, explores neural circuit bases of several distinct varieties of learning that contribute to expertise, notably to improved decision making and improved execution of planned acts.

The first half of the course draws much of its material from the new field of neuroeconomics, with a special emphasis on the roles of dopamine in the kinds of learning that are guided by feedback regarding benefits and costs consequent to action. The second half draws materials from the more established field of learning that serves sensory-motor control of limbs with complex kinematics and biomechanics.

The lab section associated with the course introduces students to the use of MATLAB in computational neuroscience, with many minor etudes and two larger assignments, one on reinforcement learning during exploratory foraging, and the second on error-guided learning in a sensory-neuro-muscular network for performance of fast, accurate movements of the arm. The development and presentation of the laboratory exercises with MATLAB are being aided by two CELEST-supported graduate students: Alex Storer and Sean Matlis. The lab has also benefited from a MATLAB tutorial written by CELEST-supported student Matt Silver. The lab sessions are tailored to be congenial for students with little or no programming experience. More challenging assignments are negotiated for the few students with ample prior computational experience with MATLAB or another modern structured language, such as C++.

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

Visit the official webpage for more information about the Undergraduate Program in Neuroscience.