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Since 1994, the Center has been the home for a unique Ph.D program in Complex Systems and Brain Sciences. Students learn how medical imaging techniques, laboratory biology, and analytical and computational mathematics can be combined to offer powerful and unique insights into the human brain and other complex phenomena. Our goal is to create a “new breed” of neuroscientist who can unite theory and experiment, computational modeling, laboratory biology, and medical imaging to be at the cutting edge of brain research. Our graduates have pursued research careers at Institutions such as Harvard, Brown, Emory, New York University, the Salk Institute, and the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego in addition to private industry such as IBM and Mathworks, and institutions such as NIH, US Air Force, NASA and NRL.

The aim of this program is to create a new kind of brain scientist who will be both biologically and mathematically literate who will bring new ways of thinking into neuroscience. The courses are research oriented and consist of a core curriculum in neuroscience (including computational and cognitive neuroscience), the mathematical concepts and tools of nonlinear dynamical systems, and computational science.

Core Courses

-Neuroscience I & II

-Introduction to Dynamical Systems

-Cognitive Neuroscience

-Methods in Complex Systems (or PSY statistics course)

-Electives (minimum 5)

-Directed Independent Study

-Dissertation (minimum 12)

-Total of 80 credits, grade "B" or better 

Addtionally, in the second year, a research paper is required for admission to candidacy, and in the third year, the student submits a Plan of Study (Form 5) and forms a Ph.D. committee. 

Students will receive the Ph.D. degree in Complex Systems and Brain Sciences. Competitive stipends for predoctoral fellows are available through the NIMH training grant, individual research grants or the University. 

Admission Requirements

Interested applicants to the Ph.D. program will need to fill out the following two application forms:

1. The FAU Graduate College ONLINE application, available here.

2. The Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences PAPER application, which can be downloaded here.

**Applications must be submitted by: Februrary 15, 2014.

For any questions or inquiries please contact:

Rhona Frankel -
Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences 
Florida Atlantic University 
777 Glades Road, Boca Raton 
FL 33431 

Tel: 561-297-2230 
Fax: 561-297-3634 

Use the form below to contact Rhona directly.

PhD Courses



Introductory survey course of research in complex systems and brain sciences at Florida Atlantic University, aimed at first semester graduate students.

ISC 6937

Introduction to Dynamical Systems and Chaos

This course provides an introduction to nonlinear dynamical system theory. Topics of discussion are one-, two- and higher dimensional flows, oscillator theory, maps, attractors, bifurcations, chaos. Many examples will be presented from the areas of current research in physics, chemistry, biology and neuroscience. Prospective students will be expected to have an elementary knowledge of calculus and a passing familiarity with ordinary differential equations (ODEs). Homework problems will be selectively discussed in class, occasionally as a presentation by the students.

MAP 6211

 Methods in Complex Systems

Experimental design and statistical analysis of linear and nonlinear systems. Presents the classical statistical analysis and inference of linear systems that have a small number of noninteracting pieces and how those statistical methods and analysis procedures are different for nonlinear complex systems with many pieces that interact strongly with each other, such as fractals and chaos.

ISC 6450

Neuroscience I

This course is intended for Graduate Students and is the first of a two-part dequence (6 credits total) which covers in depth the principles of neural science, including structure and function of cells in the nervous system, neurotransmitter systems, functional neuroanatomy, sensory processes, higher brain function, neural development and cellular mechanisms of learning and memory. Senior Undergraduates interested in taking this course should consult the instructors.

PSB 6345

Neuroscience II

This course continues on from Neuroscience I with Functional Neuroanatomy. The Senses -- Vision, Hearing, Somatosensory, Smell and Taste are covered in this course. The course concludes with lectures on Neural Development and the Cellular Mechanisms of Learning and Memory. If time permits, a few special topics such as Neuroimmunology and Neural Networks will be given by the instructor or guest lecturers. Neuroscience I is a pre-requisite for this course.

PSB 6346

 Cognitive Neuroscience

An interdisciplinary survey of the neural basis of cognitive functions such as perception, attention, memory and language.

ISC 5465

Brainstem Mechanisms of Behavior

A survey of the field of mathematical biology, including dominance of the slow manifolds. A discussion of aspects of brainstem anatomy and physiology pertinent to behavior. Class work is supplemented by extensive lab work where students learn techniques such as electroencephalographic recording from freely moving animals, horseradish peroxidase (HRP) injection and staining and mounting of tissue for light microscopy.

ISC 6440

 Computational Neuroscience I

This course covers the basics of computational neuroscience and introduces many research topics of both biological and artificial neural networks.

ISC 6460

 Computational Neuroscience II

This course will give students in depth understanding of the methods of computational neuroscience and hands-on experience of such research and will enable them to use some of the mehods in their own thesis research.

ISC 6461

 Cognition and Complex Systems

This course provides an introduction to the scientific study of perception, action, and cognition. It focuses on empirical methodologies related to development and evaluation of theories of mind. Examples are drawn from psychology, computation, linguistics, neuroscience, and philosophy.

ISC 6452

 Developmental Neurobiology

This course is designed for Graduate and Senior Undergraduate students who have had some Psychobiology, Cellular Biology or Physiology ad now want to learn more about the development of the Brain and Nervous System. The topics covered begin in early embryogenesis and follow the development of the nervous system at the cellular and molecular level through to the development of behavior. Students are strongly encouraged to talk with the instructor before registering and will need to have some biological background such as Biological Bases of Behavior (PSB 4002), Anatomy and Physiology (APB 2085/6) or Cell Biology (PCB 4523) or similar.

PSB 5515

Fractals and Chaos in the Life Sciences

Fractals and Chaos have attracted wide attention and excitement in mathematics and the physical sciences. These ideas are now being used to acheive a better understanding of DNA, proteins, ion channels, nerve cells, muscle cells, blood vessels, the heart, the lungs, and the brain. This course will explain the properties of Fractals and Chaos and illustrate them with biomedical applications. Mathematical level: elementary calculus.

ISC 5451

 Music, Perception and Cognition

This course will examine the perception and cognition of music from a psychological viewpoint. Topics include: Auditory Perception, Consonance and Dissonance, Musical Scales, Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm. We will also address relationships between music and language, the communication of emotion and meaning, and neurological and clinical findings. The first weeks of the course will consist of a survey of the field of music perception and cognition. We will then read classic papers representing work in experimental psychology, music theory, and neural networks.

Noninvasive Brain Recording Techniques and Technology

A sound introduction to the imaging technologies used at the CCSBS and their application in research. Discussed in details are EEG, MEG, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and functional MRI starting at the underlying physical processes of electric and magnetic fields and material properties. The material covers spin dynamics and pulse sequences, and their relation to MR contrast with an emphasis on echo planar sequences, the basis of fMRI recordings (including an afternoon of scanning of a phantom). The nature of the EEG and MEG signals are discussed and advanced analysis methods for spatiotemporal patterns are applied to them. Prerequisite: Introduction to Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos.

ISC 6467

 Principles of Neurobiological Signal Processing

A study of neural function, cortical electrogenesis, and theories of origin of the EEG, covering practical issues relating to EEG recording and basic methods of EEG analysis. Autocovariance, cross-covariance, Fourier analysis, autoregressive modeling, and digital filtering are some of the techniques covered.

ISC 6466


An introduction to Synergetics, the theory of self-organizing structures, will be given along examples from biology, chemistry and physics. Deterministic and stochastic models will be studied, e.g. Laser equations, Navier-Stokes model, Ginzburg-Landau systems, Fokker-Planck theory, master equation. Prerequisite: Introduction to Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos.

ISC 6464

 Synergetics Biopsychology of Language

The perception and production of speech are studied, beginning with fundamentals of speech acoustics and physiology and including memory, perception, and the evolution of language systems. Other aspects explored include real-time language processing mechanisms; language acquisition; language after brain damage; language in other species; language in nonverbal domains (sign language; parsing by computers).

PSB 6809

 Theoretical Neuroscience

The dynamics of neural activity will be studied on different levels of organization such as single cells, pairs of neurons and large-scale continuum models. These models shall be compared in the light of traversing from one organizational scale to another. Prerequisite: Introduction to Dynamical Systems and Chaos.

Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences

Florida Atlantic University - 777 Glades Road, BS-12 - Boca Raton, FL 33431

Phone: (561) 297-2230 - Email: