• Offered by Research School of Computer Science
  • ANU College ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Classification Transitional
  • Course subject Computer Science
  • Areas of interest Computer Science

The human brain is an extremely complex system able to learn to perform a wide range of intelligent behaviours. In this course the brain is considered from the perspective of how to understand a very complex system and also for guidance on to how to design an artificial general intelligence system.


Students will learn how to approach understanding of complex functional systems by means of descriptions on many different levels of detail which can be mapped into each other. These skills are needed to understand, design and modify very complex electronic systems. This approach will be applied to understanding human cognitive phenomena in terms of brain anatomy, physiology and chemistry. Comparisons will be made between learning in the brain and in current artificial neural networks.


The course covers A. How very complex systems can be understood; B. The major human cognitive processes; C. The anatomy, physiology and chemistry of the brain; D. The information process architecture of the brain; E. Differences between the brain and current artificial neural networks. F. Hierarchies of description for understanding cognitive phenomena in terms of brain anatomy, physiology and chemistry.


The course will be relevant to students interested in designing complex functional systems and general artificial intelligence systems. The descriptions of the human brain and approaches to understanding make the course relevant to students interested in research on the mammal brain, and students interested in medical studies of the human brain.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  1.  Identify what is necessary to understand a complex system
  2. Describe the primary information processing functions of major anatomical and physiological structures in the brain.
  3. Explain the operation of a range of major human memory and other cognitive processes on several different but consistent levels of detail from psychology to physiology.
  4. Identify ways in which any cognitive process can be understood in terms of physiological and anatomical mechanisms.
  5. Describe how the brain differs from current artificial neural network applications

Indicative Assessment

  • Assignments (30%)
  • Mid term exam (10%)
  • Final exam (60%)

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


  • 30 one hour lectures
  • 9 one hour tutorials

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must be studying Master of Computing or have completed 12 units of 6000 or higher level COMP courses or 12 units of 6000 level or higher PSYC courses or 12 units of 6000 level or higher NEUR courses. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have successfully completed COMP3650.

Prescribed Texts

Towards a Theoretical Neuroscience: from cell chemistry to cognition by L. Andrew Coward



Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $3480
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $4638
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
4912 20 Feb 2017 27 Feb 2017 31 Mar 2017 26 May 2017 In Person N/A

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions