Drugs, Brain and Behaviour

Module code: C8528
Level 6
15 credits in spring teaching
Teaching method: Lecture
Assessment modes: Essay, Coursework

Drugs, Brain and Behaviour offers you an overview to the psychological, pharmacological, neurobiological and neurophysiological bases of drug use, abuse and contemporary understanding of addiction (and some mental conditions), and has a strong natural science (neuroscience) orientation. The acute and long-term effects of selected drugs of abuse on behaviour, mood, cognition and neuronal function are discussed using empirical findings and theoretical developments from both human and non-human subject studies on the neurobiological and psychological basis of drug action and addiction.

The module will discuss the anatomical, neurochemical and cell-molecular mechanisms targeted by psychoactive drugs and their distribution, regulation and integration in the broader central nervous system. The focus is on potentially addictive drugs, and the major classes are discussed, including opiates (heroin and morphine), psychomotor stimulants (amphetamine and cocaine), sedative-hypnotics (alcohol, barbiturates and chloral hydrate), anxiolytics (benzodiazepines), marijuana, hallucinogens (LSD, mescaline) and hallucinogenic-stimulants (MDA, MDMA). Critically, with the knowledge of the basic neurobiological and behavioural pharmacology of these drugs 'in hand', contemporary theories and understanding of mental conditions, substance abuse and addiction are considered, focusing on key concepts related to (drug) experience-dependent neuroplasticity, drug-induced neurotoxicity, associative learning, neuronal ensembles and the synaptic basis of learning and plasticity, habit formation and impulse-control.

This module builds on knowledge gained in the core psychology modules C8003: Psychobiology and C8518: Brain and Behaviour. If you are not enrolled on the BSc Psychology course at Sussex you are expected to be familiar with the material covered in these modules.

Module learning outcomes

  • Describe major categories of addictive drugs, their pharmacokinetic- and dynamics profiles, and their effects on brain and behaviour.
  • Describe and discuss, using both psychological and neurobiological concepts and findings, how processes related to plasticity, associative learning, impulse-control and habit formation modulate drug action and contribute to abuse and addiction.
  • Describe the major neurotransmitter systems of the brain and how function and dysfunction in these contributes to certain mental conditions as well as drug abuse and addiction.
  • Critical analyse and review (in writing) primary (empirical and theoretical) research literature on drug abuse and addiction, as well as some mental disorders.