9.54: Computational Aspects of Biological Learning, Fall 2014

Class Times: Monday and Wednesday: 3:00pm - 4:30pm
Units: 3-0-9
Location: 46-5193

Tomaso Poggio (TP), Shimon Ullman (SU), Daniel Harari, Daniel Zysman.

TA: Darren A. Seibert
Office Hours: Friday 2-3 pm in 46-5156, Poggio's lab lounge (by appointment)
Email Contact : 9.54@mit.edu
Further Info: 9.54 on the Stellar system: http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/9/fa14/9.54/


This class takes a computational approach to learning in the brain by neurons and synapses. We will examine supervised and unsupervised learning as well as possible biological substrates, including Hebb synapses and the related topics of Oja flow and principal components analysis. We will discuss hypothetical computational primitives in the nervous system, and the implications for unsupervised learning algorithms underlying the development of tuning properties of cortical neurons. This course also focuses on a broad class of biologically plausible learning strategies.


Course 9.40 - Intro to Neural Computation.


Class attendance

Classroom attendance is mandatory. You should notify the instructor if you have varsity sport events, medical school interviews, or sickness (doctor's notice required) that will prevent you to attend class.

Homework assignments

There will be a total of four (4) homework assignments. Release and due dates with a specific time deadline are indicated in the following table:

Homework assignment Release date Due date
Problem Set #1 9/10 9/24 11:59 pm
Problem Set #2 9/24 10/8 11:59 pm
Problem Set #3 10/8 10/20 11:59 pm
Problem Set #4 11/26 12/5 11:59 pm

Assignments require the use of MATLAB. MATLAB is provided for free to registered students (you need a valid MIT certificate). Instructions for downloading and installation are available on this website: http://ist.mit.edu/matlab/all/student
Collaboration is encouraged on problem sets, but you must write up your own solutions and develop your own MATLAB code. Therefore, you may work with others to develop the algorithms for MATLAB, but you should produce the code on your own. Please list the names of all your collaborators on the top of each problem set.

Policy on Late Assignments:
Excused extensions on assigned work will be given only for significant illness or family crisis. Either a Dean's note or a note from MIT medical should properly document this. If an excused extension or postponement is requested, you must notify us prior to the class period for which the work is due.
In all other late submission cases, we will deduct 20% for the first late day and 10% for all days thereafter for a given homework.

Instructions for submitting homework assignments:
Please submit your problem sets through the Stellar course website as a .zip file containing:

Institute Policy on Integrity:
The Institute obliges us to remind you of its policy on integrity. It can be found at the website http://web.mit.edu/academicintegrity/. Please read it if you have not already done so.


Some of the later classes may be subject to reordering or rescheduling.

Class Date Title Instructor(s)