First day of classes:
Pitt:  January 10, 2022
CMU: January 18, 2022

Core courses:
Advanced Systems Neuroscience
Introduction to Parallel Distributed Processing
Quantitative Systems Neuroscience
Systems Neurobiology
Statistical Models of the Brain

Note: students in the CNBC graduate training program automatically have instructor permission to attend any of these core courses, but cross-registration procedures may apply.

Students are expected to complete all of the core courses by the end of their third year. Students are encouraged to take advantage of elective courses when they are offered.


Computational Neuroscience

CMU Psychology
85-719 Introduction to Parallel Distributed Processing: 12 units

  • Instructor: David Plaut
  • Date/Time: Tues & Thurs 10:10 – 11:30 AM
  • Location: Wean Hall 4623

This course provides an overview of Parallel-Distributed-Processing/neural-network models of perception, memory, language, knowledge representation, and learning. The course consists of lectures describing the theory behind the models as well as their implementation, and their application to specific empirical domains. Students get hands-on experience developing and running simulation models.

CMU Statistics
36-759 Statistical Models of the Brain: 12 units

  • Instructor: Rob Kass
  • Location: Mellon Institute 348
  • Days/Times: Tues & Thurs 1:25PM – 2:45PM

This course should be of interest to anyone wishing to see the way statistical ideas play out within the brain sciences, and it will provide a series of case studies on the role of stochastic models in scientific investigation. Statistical ideas have been part of neurophysiology and the brain sciences since the first stochastic description of spike trains, and the quantal hypothesis of neurotransmitter release, more than 50 years ago. Many contemporary theories of neural system behavior are built with statistical models. For example, integrate-and-fire neurons are usually assumed to be driven in part by stochastic noise; the role of spike timing involves the distinction between Poisson and non-Poisson neurons; and oscillations are characterized by decomposing variation into frequency-based components. In the visual system, V1 simple cells are often described using linear-nonlinear Poisson models; in the motor system, neural response may involve direction tuning; and CA1 hippocampal receptive field plasticity has been characterized using dynamic place models. It has also been proposed that perceptions, decisions, and actions result from optimal (Bayesian) combination of sensory input with previously-learned regularities; and some investigators report new insights from viewing whole-brain pattern responses as analogous to statistical classifiers. Throughout the field of statistics, models incorporating random “noise” components are used as an effective vehicle for data analysis. In neuroscience, however, the models also help form a conceptual framework for understanding neural function. This course will examine some of the most important methods and claims that have come from applying statistical thinking.

Systems Neuroscience

CMU Biological Sciences
03-763 Advanced Systems Neuroscience: 12 units

  • Instructor: Eric Yttri
  • Location: Mellon Institute
  • Date/Time: Tues & Thurs 8:35 AM – 9:50 AM, Section A:  Thurs 4:40 PM – 6:00 PM, Section B: Thurs 4:40 PM – 6:00 PM

Modern neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand the function of the brain and nervous system. This course provides a comprehensive survey of systems neuroscience, a rapidly growing scientific field that seeks to link the structure and function of brain circuitry to perception and behavior. This course will explore brain systems through a combination of classical, Nobel prize-winning data and cutting edge primary literature. Topics will include sensory systems, motor function, animal behavior and human behavior in health and disease. Lectures will provide fundamental information as well as a detailed understanding of experimental designs that enabled discoveries. Finally, students will learn to interpret and critique the diverse and multimodal data that drives systems neuroscience. This course is a graduate version of 03-363. Students will attend the same lectures as the students in 03-363, plus an additional once weekly meeting. In this meeting, topics covered in the lectures will be addressed in greater depth, often through discussions of papers from the primary literature. Students will read and be expected to have an in depth understanding of several classic papers from the literature as well as current papers that illustrate cutting edge approaches to systems neuroscience or important new concepts. Use of animals as research model systems will also be discussed. Performance in this portion of the class will be assessed by supplemental exam questions as well as by additional homework assignments.

Pitt Bioengineering
BIOENG 2586 Quantitative Systems Neuroscience: CR HRS: 3.0

  • Instructors: Aaron Batista, Helen Schwerdt
  • Location: Benedum Hall G24
  • Date/Time: Tues & Thurs 10:30 AM – 11:45 AM

Systems neuroscience is the field that attempts to explain perception, cognition, and behavior in terms of the activity of populations of neurons. This course examines major scientific results in systems neuroscience, and the computational principles of brain function they illustrate. Neuroscience topics include sensory processing, motor control, and memory. Computational and engineering principles include signals and systems, statistics, machine learning, and control theory. Brain-Computer Interfaces are highlighted as an example of the convergence of basic neuroscience and engineering applications. Course format consists of interactive lectures, student-led discussions of important publications, guided analysis of neuroscience data, and designing an original set of experiments.

Pitt Neuroscience
NROSCI/MSNBIO 2102 Systems Neurobiology: CR HRS: 6.0

  • Note: to register, sign up for NROSCI 2102 and list MSNBIO 2102 as second choice in case the class fills up.
  • Instructor: Robert Turner
  • Location: BST 1495
  • Days/Times: Mon & Wed 9:00 AM – 10:20 AM, Fri 9:00 AM – 11:55 AM
  • Prerequisites: MSNBIO 2100 OR NROSCI 2100 (Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology), or INTBP 2000 (Foundations in Biomedical Science), or permission of the instructor. A background in basic biology is required. If students have not had college biology courses, they must obtain consent of the instructor to enroll.

This course is a component of the introductory graduate sequence designed to provide an overview of neuroscience. This course provides an introduction to the structure of the mammalian nervous system and to the functional organization of sensory systems, motor systems, regulatory systems, and systems involved in higher brain functions. It is taught primarily in a lecture format with some laboratory work.