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Unit information: Information Processing and the Brain (Teaching Unit) in 2021/22

Unit name Information Processing and the Brain (Teaching Unit)
Unit code COMSM0075
Credit points 0
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Houghton
Open unit status Not open

COMS10014 Mathematics for Computer Science A and COMS10013 Mathematics for Computer Science B or equivalent.

A knowledge of Python or Julia.

A basic knowledge of probability theory and of differential equations.


EITHER Assessment Units COMSM0073 Information Processing and the Brain (Exam assessment, 10 credits)

OR COMSM0100 Information Processing and the Brain (Coursework assessment, 15 credits).

Please note:

COMSM0075 is the Teaching Unit for the Information Processing and the Brain option.

Single Honours Computer Science and some Joint Honours students can choose to be assessed by either examination (10 credits, COMSM0073) or coursework (15 credits, COMSM0100) by selecting the appropriate co-requisite assessment unit.

Any other students that are permitted to take the Information Processing and the Brain option are assessed by examination (10 credits) and should be enrolled on the co-requisite exam assessment unit (COMSM0073).

School/department Department of Computer Science
Faculty Faculty of Engineering

Description including Unit Aims

This unit explores information processing, statistical and deep learning in neuroscience. It starts out with an overview of information, statistical theory and the probabilistic brain before focusing on computational models of neural circuits and learning, including unsupervised, supervised and reinforcement learning, visual and auditory system, convolution and recurrent neural networks and the backpropagation algorithm in the brain. Finally the unit explains how to relate these models to neural data.

Overall, the unit will enable students to understand how concepts from data science, machine learning and computational modelling are being used to solve one of the most challenging problems in science: how do our brains work.

Intended Learning Outcomes

General ILOs

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of state-of-the-art computational models being used to understand brain functioning.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of different forms of modelling in neuroscience, from probabilistic models to neural networks.
  3. Relate deep learning networks to the brain.
  4. Be familiar with different forms of learning in the brain (and machine learning).
  5. Perform advanced data analysis for real-world problems.
  6. Read current research literature in models of cognition.

When assessed by Examination, in addition to the general ILOs above, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of computational models of brain functioning and of information theory.
  2. Use tools from information theory, probability and deep learning to interpret the behaviour of neuronal and neural networks.

When assessed by Coursework, in addition to the general ILOs above, students will be able to:

  1. Simulate and interpret cognitive and electrophysiological data using modern models of brain functioning.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions, including lectures, practical activities supported by drop-in sessions, problem sheets and self-directed exercises.

Teaching will take place over Weeks 1-7, with coursework support in weeks 9-11 and for students assessed by examination, consolidation and revision sessions in Weeks 12.

Assessment Information

Examination details:

2 hour exam (100%, 10 credits)


Coursework details:

Coursework (100%, 15 credits) - to be completed during a specific period.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. COMSM0075).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.