Postgraduate Course

MSc Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology

MSc Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology


The details
Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology
October 2024
1 year
Colchester Campus

Studying both cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology will give a thorough grounding in the scientific investigation of the neural mechanisms underlying human behaviour and the effects of brain injury on cognitive function. You will be taught the theoretical and biological foundations of cognitive science, and undertake advanced training in statistics and neuropsychological research methods.

Cognitive neuroscience is the scientific study of biological substrates underlying cognition, with a focus on the neural substrates of mental processes. It is a branch of both psychology and neuroscience, overlapping with disciplines such as biological psychology, cognitive psychology and neuropsychology. Cognitive neuropsychology uses data from single cases of individuals with brain injury or neurological illness to refine theoretical models of cognitive processing.

You explore topics including:

  • The physiological bases and practical applications of cognitive neuroscience techniques
  • How brain activity translates into cognitive processes
  • The theoretical and biological foundations of cognitive science
  • How brain damages impact on cognitive functions
  • Cognitive neuroscience of language
  • Cognitive neuropsychology of reading and face processing

Our research is challenging and ground-breaking. We are supported by some of the most prestigious funding bodies, including the ESRC, European Commission and the Leverhulme Trust.

We are a warm and friendly Department, and we wish to welcome recent graduates of psychology (or a closely related subject such as cognitive science). This course is popular with international students (particularly those from North America). Our students receive a high quality Masters degree within one year and benefit from small class sizes and strong research training.

Why we're great.
  • Develop expert knowledge of both neuroscience and neuropsychology.
  • Gain full use of neurophysiological and neurostimulation facilities, our virtual reality suites, babylab and observation suites and eye-tracking labs.
  • We are 17th in UK for research power in psychology (Times Higher Education research power measure, Research Excellence Framework 2021).

Our expert staff

The Department of Psychology at Essex supports world-leading, interdisciplinary research that promotes a better Understanding of Our Place in the World. This organisation of our research mission allows us to unite and synthesise knowledge across core psychology disciplines and beyond. To contribute to our mission, staff work across three research themes that dismantle conventional, disciplinary boundaries and that match our broad research strengths: Thinking about the World, Interacting with the World, and Experiencing the World. This unique approach benefits from the use of multi-methodological approaches, while nurturing the translation of our research findings into practical tools that benefit society.

Our academic staff include award-winning teachers and prize-winning researchers who are international experts in their own research areas. We are 17th in UK for research power in psychology (Times Higher Education research power measure, Research Excellence Framework 2021).

Research from staff who work on the Thinking about the World theme focuses on the psychological underpinnings of individual and group motivated behaviour and reasoning. It brings together researchers applying different methodologies to study how people make decisions, remember, and feel and act; this is studied in the political arena and in health and disease. Staff have strong skills in experimental behavioural, electrophysiological and neuromodulatory techniques.

Research around the theme Interacting with the World contributes to our understanding on how we perceive and present ourselves in relation to others and how this affects our behaviour and well-being. Staff study individual and group processes that are fundamental to social relations and that address questions around social wellness, sexual and interpersonal relationships and their links to identity and meaning of life, justice and trust. They also focus on education, language and cross-cultural processes and their interaction. Theme members use multiple methodologies including self-report, behavioural observations, and (electro-)physiological measures, to provide a wide-ranging look into the psychological processes underlying society's pressing issues and that guide our most important social interactions.

Experiencing the World theme members aim to unravel the physiological and neural underpinnings of how we experience and perceive our body states, how we see and how we control our actions. Staff further answer questions on how our perceptions and experiences change as we age. Infant and children work is conducted in the Essex Baby lab, the leading infant lab in the east of England. Staff use a variety of techniques including EEG, fNIRS, fMRI, TMS/tDCS, physiological and behavioural measures.

Our department is expanding, and has recently appointed a number of excellent researchers whose expertise increases the diversity and depth of our skills base.

Specialist facilities

We are committed to giving you the best access to state-of-the-art facilities in higher education, housed entirely within our purpose-built psychology building on our Colchester Campus:

  • Several systems to record and alter brain activity including, near infrared spectroscopy, electroencephalography, transcranial magnetic stimulation, transcranial direct current stimulation, transcranial alternate current stimulation and transcranial random noise stimulation
  • Neuronavigation systems
  • Dedicated laboratories including a virtual reality suite and an observation suite
  • Study the development of perceptual and cognitive abilities in infants in our Babylab
  • Our multimillion pound Centre for Brain Science (CBS) contains specialist laboratories, office space for research students, and research rooms and social spaces which foster opportunities for innovation, training and collaboration.

Your future

With the skills and knowledge you acquire from studying within our Department of Psychology, you will find yourself in demand from a wide range of employers.

Recent graduates have found employment as a research assistant at the Anna Freud Centre, a clinical psychologist for the NHS, a child psychologist for Children First and a lecturer at the University of Surrey. Other graduates have trained as clinical psychologists, or work in educational psychology or criminal and forensic psychology.

We also have excellent links with the research community for those interested in careers in research and teaching in a higher-education context. We are recognised by the ESRC as providing excellent postgraduate training and are an accredited Doctoral Training Centre, offering competitive studentships. Our PhD students have taken up post-doctoral positions in other top UK universities and international universities (e.g., US, Italy and Australia), as well as being appointed to lectureships across the UK.

"Since graduating from Essex I have been working for a biotechnology company called IXICO as an associate image analyst. I analyse and quality-check brain images of individuals with neurological and neurodegenerative diseases who are undergoing clinical trials, as well as setting up MRI scanners around the world making sure they scan patients in a safe way."

Sammy Shittu, MSc Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology, 2019

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

A 2:2 degree in one of the following subjects:

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Science (or a related subject)
  • Psychology

If you hold a degree in Psychology it would be preferable, though not essential, if this was British Psychological Society accredited.

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, we require IELTS 7.0 overall with a minimum score of 5.5 in all components.

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

Additional Notes

The University uses academic selection criteria to determine an applicant’s ability to successfully complete a course at the University of Essex. Where appropriate, we may ask for specific information relating to previous modules studied or work experience.


Course structure

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The following modules are based on the current course structure and may change in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.

We understand that deciding where and what to study is a very important decision for you. We'll make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the courses, services and facilities as described on our website and in line with your contract with us. However, if we need to make material changes, for example due to significant disruption, we'll let our applicants and students know as soon as possible.

Components and modules explained


Components are the blocks of study that make up your course. A component may have a set module which you must study, or a number of modules from which you can choose.

Each component has a status and carries a certain number of credits towards your qualification.

Status What this means
You must take the set module for this component and you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component but you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
You must take the set module for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
Compulsory with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.

The modules that are available for you to choose for each component will depend on several factors, including which modules you have chosen for other components, which modules you have completed in previous years of your course, and which term the module is taught in.


Modules are the individual units of study for your course. Each module has its own set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria and also carries a certain number of credits.

In most cases you will study one module per component, but in some cases you may need to study more than one module. For example, a 30-credit component may comprise of either one 30-credit module, or two 15-credit modules, depending on the options available.

Modules may be taught at different times of the year and by a different department or school to the one your course is primarily based in. You can find this information from the module code. For example, the module code HR100-4-FY means:

HR 100  4  FY

The department or school the module will be taught by.

In this example, the module would be taught by the Department of History.

The module number. 

The UK academic level of the module.

A standard undergraduate course will comprise of level 4, 5 and 6 modules - increasing as you progress through the course.

A standard postgraduate taught course will comprise of level 7 modules.

A postgraduate research degree is a level 8 qualification.

The term the module will be taught in.

  • AU: Autumn term
  • SP: Spring term
  • SU: Summer term
  • FY: Full year 
  • AP: Autumn and Spring terms
  • PS: Spring and Summer terms
  • AS: Autumn and Summer terms


Research Project (MSc)

In this module you complete a research dissertation with a maximum of 10,000 words, written up as a report. You have a lot of flexibility as there are a wide variety of topics that you can choose to research. You report on the results of an original psychological research study carried out under the supervision of a staff member. A good research report will look like a psychology study reported in a peer-reviewed journal (such as Cognitive Neuropsychology, or Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology).

View Research Project (MSc) on our Module Directory


Neurocognition of Human Interaction

Gain an in-depth introduction to the major topics in neurocognition of language. By critically analysing a range of research and methodologies used to study brain processes, you will acquire an advanced understanding of the brain bases of language, and of the neurocognitive processes that underlie human communication.

View Neurocognition of Human Interaction on our Module Directory


Fundamental Statistics for Research

This module provides you with a detailed overview of the most common statistical tests used by postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers in psychology.

View Fundamental Statistics for Research on our Module Directory


Numerical Methods in Cognitive Neuroscience

Research in cognitive neuroscience and cognitive neuropsychology employs a diverse range of analytical tools and procedures. This module provides specialist Masters students with the training necessary to critically evaluate the analyses presented in published research. Additionally, you will be trained to apply numerical techniques to neuropsychological and psychophysiological data and to interpret the output of popular analysis software.

View Numerical Methods in Cognitive Neuroscience on our Module Directory


Theory and Methods in Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology

This module covers the main research areas and methods used in investigating the workings of the brain. The module will provide you with a solid background in brain structure and function both at the cellular level and the systems level. It will consider neuroscience as it relates to behaviour by asking how mental processes such as perception, attention, movement, emotion, higher cognitive functions and sexual orientation are implemented within the brain and body. This module also seeks to familiarise you with most of the present-day methods used in cognitive neuroscience and to provide practical experience of some of these methodologies: EEG, ERPs, TMS, tDCS, eye-tracking, pupilometry, NIRS and other psychophysiological measures (skin conductance, heart rate, respiration rate, plethysmography etc) and their combination.

View Theory and Methods in Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology on our Module Directory


Option(s) from list


Your modules are taught through lectures, laboratory practicals, seminars, independent reading and research projects and we host a very active programme of research seminars. A typical timetable for postgraduate taught students in the Department of Psychology involves a two-hour lecture for each module per week. Some modules will involve additional computer labs (normally 1 hour per week), while others will include seminars (normally 2-3 per term).


Full-year modules are most often examined using a three-hour examination, and half-year modules by a combination of two-hour examination and coursework (e.g., essays, oral presentations).


A research study in cognitive neuropsychology, cognitive neuroscience or neuroscience of language carried out under the supervision of a staff member (maximum of 10,000 words, written up as a research report).

Fees and funding

Home/UK fee


International fee


What's next

Open Days

We hold Open Days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

2024 Open Days (Colchester Campus)

  • Saturday 15 June 2024 - June Open Day
  • Saturday 21 September 2024 - September Open Day
  • Saturday 26 October 2024 - October Open Day


You can apply for this postgraduate course online. Before you apply, please check our information about necessary documents that we'll ask you to provide as part of your application.

We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

For information on our deadline to apply for this course, please see our ‘how to apply' information.

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Visit Colchester Campus

Set within 200 acres of award-winning parkland - Wivenhoe Park and located two miles from the historic city centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded development. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.

View from Square 2 outside the Rab Butler Building looking towards Square 3

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.

Find out more

The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications. The University would inform and engage with you if your course was to be discontinued, and would provide you with options, where appropriate, in line with our Compensation and Refund Policy.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.

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