Demonstrations of Neural Network Computations Involving Students

Christopher J May


David Marr famously proposed three levels of analysis (implementational, algorithmic, and computational) for understanding information processing systems such as the brain. While two of these levels are commonly taught in neuroscience courses (the implementational level through neurophysiology and the computational level through systems/cognitive neuroscience), the algorithmic level is typically neglected. This leaves an explanatory gap in students? understanding of how, for example, the flow of sodium ions enables cognition. Neural networks bridge these two levels by demonstrating how collections of interacting neuron-like units can give rise to more overtly cognitive phenomena. The demonstrations in this paper are intended to facilitate instructors? introduction and exploration of how neurons process information.

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