PhD in Cognitive & Neural Systems

Course Requirements

PhD students are required to complete at least 16 semester courses (64 credits) as follows: at least 10 courses chosen from the CNS program’s curriculum, of which at least two must be 700- or 800-level courses, with the remaining courses chosen to form a coherent area of expertise. The latter courses will be selected in consultation with the student’s faculty advisor.

Students who enter the PhD program with a master’s degree in biology, physiology, medicine, computer science, engineering, mathematics, statistics, physics, or psychology are required to take eight courses (32 credits) chosen from the CNS program’s curriculum, at least two of which must be 700- or 800-level courses, and to fulfill all other program requirements.

PhD Qualifying Examinations

Students are required to pass a qualifying examination on the CNS curriculum. The examination is offered each year in January and in May. A student must have passed eight courses in the CNS curriculum to take the PhD qualifying examination.

In addition, the student must have completed an approved supervised research effort during their CNS tenure, equivalent to at least one full summer as a research assistant.

In lieu of the written qualifying examination, students have the option of producing and defending a paper, called the Written Proposal, that details a project appropriate for dissertation research. The Written Proposal will follow the formatting guidelines of a National Research Service Award (NRSA) pre-doctoral grant application. No student will be required to submit an actual NRSA application, but those who are eligible will be encouraged to do so after passing the requirements for the CNS Written Proposal. In most cases, the Written Proposal is expected to also serve as the candidate’s prospectus for the PhD dissertation (see below). The Written Proposal will be prepared in consultation with the faculty member who is expected to be the primary supervisor for the proposed research.

Dissertation Requirements

Before finalizing dissertation plans, students are required to submit a written prospectus. A dissertation and final oral examination must be completed in accordance with the general requirements for the PhD as outlined in the front of this website.

Course Offerings

  • CAS CN 500 Computational Methods in Cognitive and Neural Systems
  • CAS CN 510 Principles and Methods of Cognitive and Neural Modeling I
  • CAS CN 520 Principles and Methods of Cognitive and Neural Modeling II
  • CAS CN 530 Neural and Computational Models of Vision
  • CAS CN 540 Neural and Computational Models of Adaptive Movement Planning and Control
  • CAS CN 550 Neural and Computational Models of Recognition, Memory, and Attention
  • CAS CN 560 Neural and Computational Models of Speech Perception and Production
  • CAS CN 570 Neural and Computational Models of Conditioning, Reinforcement, Motivation, and Rhythm
  • CAS CN 580 Introduction to Computational Neuroscience
  • GRS CN 699 Teaching College Cognitive & Neural Systems I
  • GRS CN 700 Computational and Mathematical Methods in Neural Modeling
  • GRS CN 710 Advanced Topics in Neural Modeling
  • GRS CN 720 Neural and Computational Models of Planning and Temporal Structure in Behavior
  • GRS CN 730 Models of Visual Perception
  • GRS CN 740 Topics in Sensory Motor Control
  • GRS CN 760 Topics in Speech Perception and Recognition
  • GRS CN 780 Topics in Computational Neuroscience
  • GRS CN 810 Topics in Cognitive & Neural Systems
  • GRS CN 811 Topics in Cognitive & Neural Systems: Visual Perception

Research in Cognitive & Neural Systems

The variable credit research courses listed below are normally open only to advanced PhD students and students engaged in sponsored research projects. Instructor’s consent is required. 1st & 2nd sem.

  • GRS CN 911, 912   Research in Neural Networks for Adaptive Pattern Recognition
  • GRS CN 915, 916   Research in Neural Networks for Vision and Image Processing
  • GRS CN 921, 922   Research in Neural Networks for Speech and Language Processing
  • GRS CN 925, 926   Research in Neural Networks for Adaptive Sensory-Motor Planning and Control
  • GRS CN 931, 932   Research in Neural Networks for Conditioning and Reinforcement Learning
  • GRS CN 935, 936   Research in Neural Networks for Cognitive Information Processing
  • GRS CN 941, 942   Research in Nonlinear Dynamics of Neural Networks
  • GRS CN 945, 946   Research in Technological Applications of Neural Networks
  • GRS CN 951, 952   Research in Hardware Implementations of Neural Networks

Courses in Related Departments

The following courses are among those that may be useful to CNS students whose program of study includes courses outside the CNS curriculum. Other courses may be substituted with advisor’s approval. Each course is described in the Graduate School Bulletin website. Except as noted, each course carries 4 credits.


  • CAS BI 545    Neurobiology of Motivated Behavior
  • CAS BI 554    Neuroendocrinology
  • CAS BI 570    Cognitive Ethology
  • CAS BI 575    Techniques in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • GRS BI 644    Neuroethology
  • GRS BI 645    Cellular and Molecular Neurophysiology
  • GRS BI 655    Developmental Neurobiology
  • GRS BI 676    Neurobiology/Biophysics
  • GRS BI 755    Cellular and Systems Neuroscience
  • GRS BI 756    Systems and Behavior Neuroscience

Computer Science

  • CAS CS 535    Complexity Theory
  • CAS CS 537    Randomness in Computing
  • CAS CS 542    Machine Learning
  • CAS CS 580    Advanced Computer Graphics
  • CAS CS 585    Image and Video Computing
  • GRS CS 640   Artificial Intelligence
  • GRS CS 670   Performance Analysis of Computer Systems
  • GRS CS 680   Graduate Introduction to Computer Graphics


Biomedical Engineering
  • ENG BE 509    Quantitative Physiology of the Auditory System
  • ENG BE 515    Introduction to Medical Imaging
  • ENG BE 540    Bioelectrical Signals: Analysis and Interpretation
  • ENG BE 550    Bioelectromechanics
  • ENG BE 560    Biomolecular Architecture
  • ENG BE 563    Cellular and Molecular Systems Analysis
  • ENG BE 570    Introduction to Computational Vision
  • ENG BE 701    Auditory Signal Processing: Peripheral
  • ENG BE 702    Auditory Signal Processing: Central
  • ENG BE 710    Neural Plasticity and Perceptual Learning
  • ENG BE 715    Functional Neuroimaging
  • ENG BE 740    Parameter Estimation and Systems Identification
  • ENG BE 747    Advanced Signals and Systems Analysis for Biomedical Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
  • ENG ME 507    Process Modeling and Control
  • ENG ME 510    Production Systems Analysis
  • ENG ME 714    Advanced Stochastic Modeling and Simulation
  • ENG ME 724    Advanced Optimization Theory and Methods
  • ENG ME 732    Combinatorial Optimization and Graph Algorithms
  • ENG ME 740    Vision, Robotics, and Planning
  • ENG ME 766    Advanced Scheduling Models and Methods
Electrical, Computer & Systems Engineering
  • ENG SC 516    Digital Signal Processing
  • ENG SC 520    Digital Image Processing and Communication
  • ENG SC 571    VLSI Principles and Applications
  • ENG SC 575    Semiconductor Devices
  • ENG SC 578    Fabrication Technology for Integrated Circuits
  • ENG SC 710    Dynamic Programming and Stochastic Control
  • ENG SC 716    Advanced Digital Signal Processing
  • ENG SC 717    Image Reconstruction and Restoration
  • ENG SC 719    Statistical Pattern Recognition
  • ENG SC 761    Information Theory and Coding
  • ENG SC 775    VLSI Devices and Device Models

Health Sciences

  • SAR HS 550    Neural Systems
  • SAR HS 582    Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology
  • SAR HS 755    Readings in Neuroscience

Mathematics & Statistics

  • CAS MA 561    Methods of Applied Mathematics I
  • CAS MA 562    Methods of Applied Mathematics II
  • CAS MA 563    Introduction to Differential Geometry
  • CAS MA 565    Mathematical Models in the Life Sciences
  • CAS MA 570    Stochastic Methods of Operations Research
  • CAS MA 573    Qualitative Theory of Ordinary Differential Equations
  • CAS MA 574    Applied Nonlinear Dynamics
  • CAS MA 581    Probability
  • CAS MA 583    Introduction to Stochastic Processes
  • GRS MA 684    Applied Multiple Aggression and Multivariate Analysis
  • GRS MA 685    Advanced Topics in Applied Statistical Analysis
  • GRS MA 717    Functional Analysis
  • GRS MA 771    Introduction to Dynamical Systems
  • GRS MA 775    Ordinary Differential Equations and Dynamical Systems
  • GRS MA 776    Partial Differential Equations
  • GRS MA 779    Probability Theory I
  • GRS MA 780    Probability Theory II
  • GRS MA 781    Estimation Theory
  • GRS MA 782    Hypothesis Testing
  • GRS MA 785    Time Series Modeling and Forecasting
  • GRS MA 861    Mathematical and Statistical Methods of Bioinformatics
  • GRS MA 881    Topics in High Dimensional Data Analysis

Medical Sciences

(Please note: The Boston University School of Medicine follows a calendar that differs from the Charles River Campus.)

Anatomy & Neurobiology
  • GMS AN 702    Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
  • GMS AN 703    Neuroscience
  • GMS AN 802    Experimental Design and Statistics (2 cr)
  • GMS AN 807    Neurobiology of the Visual System (2 cr)
  • GMS AN 808    Neuroanatomical Basis of Neurologic Disorders (2 cr)
Behavioral Neuroscience
  • GMS BN 775    Human Neuropsychology I
  • GMS BN 776    Human Neuropsychology II
  • GMS BN 777, 778, 779    Basic Neuroscience
  • GMS BN 793    Adult Neurologic Communication Disorders
  • GMS BN 795    Neuropsychology of Perception and Memory
  • GMS BN 796    Neuropsychological Assessment I
  • GMS BN 797    Neuropsychological Assessment II
  • GMS BN 798    Functional Neuroanatomy in Neuropsychology
  • GMS BN 821    Seminar in Neuroimaging


  • CAS PS 520    Research Methods in Perception and Cognition
  • CAS PS 524    Remembering the Past: The Psychology of Memory
  • CAS PS 525    Cognitive Science
  • CAS PS 528    Human Brain Mapping
  • CAS PS 530    Neural Models of Memory Function
  • CAS PS 544    Developmental Neuropsychology
  • CAS PS 545    Language Development
  • CAS PS 546    Cognitive Development
  • CAS PS 548    Perceptual Development
  • CAS PS 573    Abstract Thought
  • GRS PS 737    Memory Systems of the Brain
  • GRS PS 738    Techniques in Systems and Behavioral Neuroscience
  • GRS PS 821    Learning
  • GRS PS 822    Visual Perception
  • GRS PS 823    Verbal Processes
  • GRS PS 824    Cognitive Psychology
  • GRS PS 828    Seminar in Psycholinguistics
  • GRS PS 829    Clinical Neuropsychology
  • GRS PS 831    Seminar in Neuropsychology
  • GRS PS 832    Physiological Psychology
  • GRS PS 833    Advanced Physiological Psychology
  • GRS PS 835    Attention
  • GRS PS 844    Theories of Development
  • GRS PS 845    Topics in Perceptual Development
  • GRS PS 848    Developmental Psycholinguistics