Contacts | Summary of Requirements for the Minor in Computational Neuroscience | Suggested General Education Courses | Computational Neuroscience Courses

Department Website:

Computational neuroscience is a relatively new interdisciplinary area of inquiry that is concerned with how components of animal and human nervous systems interact to produce behaviors. It relies on quantitative and modeling approaches to understand the function of the nervous system and to design human-made devices that duplicate behaviors. Course work in computational neuroscience can prepare students for graduate studies in neurobiology or psychology, in the mathematical or engineering sciences, or in areas of medicine such as neurology or psychiatry. It can lead either to traditional academic careers or to opportunities in the corporate world.

An undergraduate degree in computational neuroscience is not available at the University of Chicago, but a minor in computational neuroscience is offered by the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division. This minor is a good option for students who are majoring in biological sciences and are interested in mathematical approaches to biology; or for students who are majoring in computer science, mathematics, physics, psychology, or statistics and are interested in neuroscience. For details, see the Biological Sciences section in this catalog.

Students electing this minor must have completed, or placed out of, the equivalent of a year of collegiate-level calculus and must have completed the general education requirement for the biological sciences.

Summary of Requirements for the Minor in Computational Neuroscience

BIOS 24231Methods in Computational Neuroscience100
BIOS 24232Computational Approaches to Cognitive Neuroscience100
BIOS 24408Modeling and Signal Analysis for Neuroscientists100
BIOS 26210-26211Mathematical Methods for Biological Sciences I-II200
Total Units500

Instead of completing a formal minor, students can easily fashion an organized course of study in computational neuroscience by selecting appropriate general education courses and electives.

For updated information on computational neuroscience activities and undergraduate programs, visit

Suggested General Education Courses

Students majoring in biological sciences typically take BIOS 20150 How Can We Understand the Biosphere? and BIOS 20151 Introduction to Quantitative Modeling in Biology (Basic) or BIOS 20152 Introduction to Quantitative Modeling in Biology (Advanced).

One of the following sequences:200
Calculus I-II
Honors Calculus I-II
SOSC 14100-14200-14300Mind I-II-III300

Computational Neuroscience Courses

BIOS 24231. Methods in Computational Neuroscience. 100 Units.

Topics include (but are not limited to): Hodgkin-Huxley equations, Cable theory, Single neuron models, Information theory, Signal Detection theory, Reverse correlation, Relating neural responses to behavior, and Rate vs. temporal codes.

Instructor(s): S. Bensmaia     Terms Offered: Winter. L.
Prerequisite(s): For Neuroscience Majors: NSCI 20130, BIOS 26210 and BIOS 26211 which must be taken concurrently, or consent of instructor.
Equivalent Course(s): PSYC 24231, CPNS 34231

BIOS 24232. Computational Approaches to Cognitive Neuroscience. 100 Units.

This course is concerned with the relationship of the nervous system to higher order behaviors (e.g., perception, object recognition, action, attention, learning, memory, and decision making). Psychophysical, functional imaging, and electrophysiological methods are introduced. Mathematical and statistical methods (e.g. neural networks and algorithms for studying neural encoding in individual neurons and decoding in populations of neurons) are discussed. Weekly lab sections allow students to program cognitive neuroscientific experiments and simulations.

Instructor(s): N. Hatsopoulos     Terms Offered: Winter. Winter
Prerequisite(s): Prerequisite: For Neuroscience Majors: NSCI 20130, BIOS 26210, and knowledge using Matlab, or consent of instructor.
Equivalent Course(s): ORGB 34650, NSCI 23600, CPNS 33200, PSYC 34410

BIOS 24408. Modeling and Signal Analysis for Neuroscientists. 100 Units.

The course provides an introduction into signal analysis and modeling for neuroscientists. We cover linear and nonlinear techniques and model both single neurons and neuronal networks. The goal is to provide students with the mathematical background to understand the literature in this field, the principles of analysis and simulation software, and allow them to construct their own tools. Several of the 90-minute lectures include demonstrations and/or exercises in Matlab.

Instructor(s): W. van Drongelen     Terms Offered: Spring. L.
Prerequisite(s): Undergraduates: Biology Major - BIOS 26210 and 26211, or consent of instructor. Neuroscience Major - NSCI 20130, BIOS 26210 and 26211, or consent of instructor.
Equivalent Course(s): CPNS 32111, NSCI 24000

BIOS 26210-26211. Mathematical Methods for Biological Sciences I-II.

BIOS 26210. Mathematical Methods for Biological Sciences I. 100 Units.

This course builds on the introduction to modeling course biology students take in the first year (BIOS 20151 or 152). It begins with a review of one-variable ordinary differential equations as models for biological processes changing with time, and proceeds to develop basic dynamical systems theory. Analytic skills include stability analysis, phase portraits, limit cycles, and bifurcations. Linear algebra concepts are introduced and developed, and Fourier methods are applied to data analysis. The methods are applied to diverse areas of biology, such as ecology, neuroscience, regulatory networks, and molecular structure. The students learn computations methods to implement the models in MATLAB.

Instructor(s): D. Kondrashov     Terms Offered: Autumn. L.
Prerequisite(s): BIOS 20151 or BIOS 20152 and three quarters of a Biological Sciences Fundamentals sequence or consent of the instructor
Equivalent Course(s): CPNS 31000, PSYC 36210

BIOS 26211. Mathematical Methods for Biological Sciences II. 100 Units.

This course is a continuation of BIOS 26210. The topics start with optimization problems, such as nonlinear least squares fitting, principal component analysis and sequence alignment. Stochastic models are introduced, such as Markov chains, birth-death processes, and diffusion processes, with applications including hidden Markov models, tumor population modeling, and networks of chemical reactions. In computer labs, students learn optimization methods and stochastic algorithms, e.g., Markov Chain, Monte Carlo, and Gillespie algorithm. Students complete an independent project on a topic of their interest.

Instructor(s): D. Kondrashov     Terms Offered: Winter. L.
Prerequisite(s): BIOS 26210 or equivalent.
Equivalent Course(s): CPNS 31100, PSYC 36211


Undergraduate Primary Contact

Faculty Advisor
Prof. Stephanie Palmer
1027 E. 57th St., Anatomy 104

Administrative Contact

Administrative Director
Elena Rizzo
5841 South Maryland Avenue, AMB P-400E