Neural Computation 2014-2015

Neural Computation (NC) is a 10 point MSc course of 18 lectures in the first semester.
(Other students can attend after agreement).
Lectures are Tuesday and Friday: 12.10-13.00, Tuesday and Friday in SR2.04 AT. We start on time!
The first lecture will be in week 1 on September 16th 2014.
No lectures on Nov 14th and 18th.
Instructor: Mark van Rossum

Short description

In this course we study the computations carried out by the nervous system. Unlike most courses and artificial intelligence, we take a bottom-up approach. This means that we incorporate data from neurobiology, simulate certain aspects of it, and try to formulate theories about the brain.
Apart from learning about the brain, you will also learn about numerical modelling of differential equations, non-linear dynamics, current neurbiological research and pitfalls in modelling real-world systems.

For whom is this course?
This course will appeal to students who are interested in the basic principles and 'biological hardware' implementations of computation
in human and animals brains.

For whom is it not?
The topics discussed in the course have inspired software solutions to real-life problems, however, we shall hardly
discuss those. The course has little practical applicability outside academic research.

Keywords: single neuron models, small networks, neural codes, models of learning and synaptic plasticity.

Lecture notes part1, and part2

Office hours: make an appointment or catch me after the lecture.


No prior biology/neuroscience knowledge is required. I use a small subset of not very advanced math in the lectures. Keywords: linear differential equations, eigenvectors, Fourier transformations, fixed points. These older FMCS lecture notes can be used as a refresher. Alternatively, use Google to refresh forgotten maths if needed. If you are still stuck, use the practicals or office hours to resolve the problems.

In the tutorials we use MatLab and NEURON (a special purpose simulator). No prior experience with either is required, however MatLab skills are valuable for many courses.

More information on Matlab and how to make graphs and write reports.


The course will be fully assessed by two reports of practical assignments which will appear here. The two marks are averaged. Standard late policies will apply. Also see How to make graphs and write reports.

Assignment 1 Deadline: TBA
Note to answers assignment 2

Assignment 2 Deadline: TBA Note to answers assignment 2

Preferably hand-in hardcopy at ITO, otherwise email to mvanross@inf


Practicals are every week, starting week 3. noon-1pm, location TBA. No practicals in the first two weeks. Tutors are ? and Mark van Rossum. You can use the practicals to work on the exercises below, and ask questions about the lectures. Attendance is not obligatory.

Timetable (approximate)

Week 2; week of Sep 23
Tuesday lecture: 1. Introduction and Chapter 1: Anatomy 
Friday lecture: 2. Chapter 2: Passive properties.
No practical.

Week 3; week of Sep 30
Tuesday lecture: 3. Chapter 3: Hodgkin-Huxley
Friday lecture: 4. Chapter 3: Hodgkin-Huxley
Practical: 1. The NEURON simulator: Passive properties

Week 4; week of Oct 7
Tuesday lecture:  5. Chapter 3: Synapses
Friday lecture:     6. Chapter 4: Synapses
Practical: 2. The NEURON simulator: Hodgkin-Huxley model

Week 5; week of Oct 14
Tuesday lecture: 7. Chapter 5: Integrate and Fire
Friday lecture: 8. Chapter 6: Firing statistics
Practical: 3. NEURON: Interactions of synapses on dendrites

Week 6; week of Oct 21
Tuesday lecture: 9. Chapter 7: Retina and V1
Friday lecture: Spill-over
Practical: 4. Matlab: AMPA receptor simulation. Script (will appear later): ampa.m

Week 7; week of Oct 28
Tuesday lecture: 10 Chapter 7: Retina and V1
Friday lecture: 11 Chapter 8: Coding
Practical: 5. Matlab: An Integrate and fire neuron  Script: mvr_if_matlab.m

Week 8; week of Nov 4
Tuesday lecture: 12. Chapter 9: Higher visual processing
Friday lecture: 13. Chapter 10: Networks
Practical: Question 7 and 8 of 6. Simple and complex cells Dayan and Abbott chapter: encode2.pdf

Week 9; week of Nov 11
Tuesday lecture: 14. Chapter 11+12: Decisions
Friday lecture: 15. Chapter 13: Hebbian Learning
Practical: 6. Matlab: Ben-Yishai network Script: ben2.m

Week 10; week of Nov 18
Tuesday lecture: 16. Chapter 13: Hebbian Learning
Friday lecture: 17. Chapter 13: Hebbian Learning

Week 11; week of Nov 25
Tuesday lecture: 18. spill-over
Practical: 8. Matlab: Hebbian learning with constraints Script (will appear later): hebb.m

Additional material (discussed in the lectures):

Movies of LGN and V1 recordings (play with mplayer under linux):


Recurrent 6-node network with chaotic behavior bifur6.m

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