Module Details

PS901-7-AU-CO: Fundamentals Of Neuroscience And Neuropsychology

Year: 2016/17
Department: Psychology
Essex credit: 15
ECTS credit: 7.5
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: No
Outside Option: No

Supervisor: Dr Nick Cooper
Teaching Staff: Dr Nick Cooper, Dr Stefan Kennett, Dr Elia Valentini, Dr Marcello Costantini, Dr Gethin Hughes
Contact details:

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

This course covers the main research areas and methods used in investigating the workings of the brain. The course will provide a good background in brain structure and function both at the molecular level and the cellular level. The course will consider neuroscience as it relates to behaviour by asking how mental processes such as perception, memory, language and emotion are implemented within the brain.

Course Aims
a) Provide an overview of main research areas of neuroscience
b) Provide a sound structural basis at both the molecular and cellular level for understanding the nature of a brain function
c) Provide a significant body of knowledge about how the function of the brain relates to behaviour
d) Introduce methods in neuroscience, including lesion studies and imaging techniques
e) Critical evaluation of significant findings in neuroscience

(L1). The basic concepts of neuroscience and neuropsychology.
The historical development of method and ideas in neuroscience and neuropsychology from the ancient world to the present day. Metaphors for the brain in relation to the development of other technology. Debates and controversies in neuroscience and neuropsychology (dualism, holism vs. localism, modularism vs. connectionism).

(L2). Neuroanatomy - The basic terminology of neuroanatomy, main subdivisions of the nervous system, surrounding structures (skull, blood vessels, meninges, ventricles) and their importance. Main structures: spinal cord, brainstem, cerebellum, midbrain, thalamus, basal ganglia, cortex.

(L3). Journal club - Discussion and analysis of a neuropsychological journal article (including preparation for coursework 1).

(L4). The cellular foundations of the nerve function
Different types of nerve cells and their functions: neurons and glia cells, the main components of the nerve cell, action potential, impulse conduction, myelinisation. Synaptic transmission: receptors, neurotransmitter systems, long term potentiation and inhibition, modulation of the transmitter function through psychoactive drugs

(L5). The methods of neuroscience I - animal modals and lesions studies.
Animal studies: rationale, behavioural studies, single cell / multiunit recording, rasters, tuning curves and refractory period. Example: Hippocampus and spatial memory (Place cells, Long term potentiation). Human lesion studies: What is a brain lesion? Tumours, strokes, other neurological diseases. Studying brain damaged populations (issues and problems, some specific function deficits). Factors influencing the impact of lesion on brain function.

(L6). The methods of neuroscience II - studying the normal brain.
Structural (X-ray, CT, MRI) and functional (SPECT, fMRI, PET, NIRS) neuroimaging: promises and limitations, subtraction and correlation analysis, regions of interest, sources of artefacts. Stimulating the brain - TMS, tDCS. Followed by a lab-based practical introduction to NIRS & TMS.

(L7). The methods of neuroscience III - studying the normal brain (contd).
Electrophysiological methods: electroencephalography (EEG), event-related potentials (ERP), magnetic encephalography (MEG). Controlling the brain - neurofeedback. Followed by a lab-based practical introduction to EEG & neurofeedback.

(L8). Functional neuroanatomy I - sensory, perceptual and motor functions
Visual perception (visual pathways/streams), auditory perception (including speech perception), tactile perception. Multisensory interactions and plasticity. The basics of motor control (primary motor cortex tuning, EMG recording, reflexes.

(L9). Functional neuroanatomy II - higher order functions (attention, memory, consciousness).
Consciousness (The necessity of V1 involvement, higher centres, feedback mechanisms, The "Hard/Easy Problems"). Frontal lobe and/or executive processes, how to diagnose them and the dangers of over-correlation. Memory including encoding, "HERA" and storage.
The neural correlates of attention (Neural correlates, fronto-parietal network(s), attentional load, feedback mechanism, unilateral neglect).

(L10). Issues in neuroscience - including "blobology", ethics and neural enhancement. Group dicussions.

Learning and Teaching Methods

Lectures (2 hours per week)


100 per cent Coursework Mark


2 PIECES OF COURSEWORK: a) Critical review of a journal article b) Essay / project proposal

Other information

Compulsory for:
MSc Neuropsychology students.
MSc in Psychological Research Methods scheme students.

Optional for MSc in Psychology

Correct as at 01/04/16- NC/SLB


  • Recommended texts
  • Zillmer, E. & Spiers, M. (2001). Principles of Neuropsychology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
  • Smith, E. & Kosslyn, S. (2007). Cognitive Psychology: Mind and brain. New Jersey, Pearson Education, Inc.
  • Additionally, recommended articles for the course will be distributed during the lectures

Further information

External Examiner Information

  • Name: Dr Robert Kentridge
    Institution: University of Durham
    Academic Role: Reader