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Final Project:
5-minute presentations
in class, Tue May 2
Peer evaluations.

Brain, Behavior & Info Processing


Prof. Mark Nelson (m-nelson at

9:30-10:50 TR, 1131 Siebel, Spring 2017

Brains are amazing! How did brains evolve? How are they organized? What sorts of information processing principles do they implement? How do these principles give rise to adaptive behavior and intelligence?

This course focuses on understanding the information processing problems that organisms face in natural environments and how nervous systems have evolved to solve those problems.

We will explore evolutionary trends and trajectories leading from single-cell behavior, to the emergence of nervous systems in multicellular organisms, to the sophisticated information processing capabilities of vertebrate brains.

We will introduce the use of computer modeling and simulation techiques for exploring nervous system function and will design simple 'brains' for artificial creatures in virtual environments!

Prereqs: Introductory courses in physics, biology, calculus and previous programming experience, or consent of instructor.

From Maynard Smith & Szathmary (1995)
The Major Transitions in Evolution.

Mark E. Nelson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2005-2016.