Sussex Neuroscience

Taught modules

Students on the 4-Year PhD Programme can choose from a wide variety of advanced level taught modules across different Schools.

Some relevant modules on offer during the 2016-17 academic year are as follows:

Intelligence in Animals and Machines (Autumn)

The module will develop an understanding of what it means for an animal or a machine to behave intelligently, and how brain and behavioural systems are adapted to enable an animal to cope effectively within its environment. We consider diverse aspects of intelligence including navigation and motor control, numerical, language, memory and social skills. We ask how these are related to one another and how they are matched to the particular needs of animals and machines.
Three papers on current research issues will be given each week to be discussed in seminars. In addition, suggested texts are:
D. McFarland and T. Bösser. Intelligent behaviour in animals and robots, MIT Press
R. Pfeifer and C. Scheier, Understanding intelligence, MIT Press
S. Shettleworth, Cognition evolution and behaviour, Oxford University Press

Advanced Techniques in Neuroscience (Autumn)

This offers a choice of practical classes on current techniques in neuroscience including advanced microscopy, fluorescence imaging, electrophysiology, EEG, fMRI, and computational neuroscience. The practical work is complemented by seminars on current methodological developments, and the ethics of human and animal studies.

Linear Models in Statistics (Autumn)

Linear Models consist of a series of lectures and computer classes, mainly aimed at introducing or re-introducing postgraduate students to ANOVA, regression and related linear modelling techniques, and training them to use SPSS, a popular statistical analysis package, to carry out the corresponding analyses. A single topic will be covered in a lecture and SPSS class each week. Details of the topics are:

Introduction to SPSS - Data Entry and Charting
Simple Linear Regression
Multiple Regression
One-way Independent Groups ANOVA and subsidiary tests
Two-way ANOVA, Related Groups ANOVA, Mixed ANOVA, ANCOVA.
Logistic Regression
2 and Log-Linear Modelling
Mixed Modelling

Mathematics and Computational Models for Complex Systems (Autumn)

This module provides a foundation in mathematical and scientific computing techniques used widely in artificial intelligence, artificial life and related fields. The material covered in this course will facilitate the study of a number of options on other MSc courses at a deeper level than would be possible without it. In particular, it is a prerequisite for the Neural Networks and Computational Neuroscience courses. Coursework is based around Matlab packages.
Topics include:
- Vectors and matrices
- Differential calculus
- Numerical integration
- Probability and hypothesis testing
- Dynamical systems theory

Molecular Genetics (Autumn)

The module will cover the application of molecular genetics to the study of processes in model systems and higher eukaryotes. Particular topics will include cell cycle and checkpoint control, recombination and mating type switching in lower eukaryotes, gene mapping and cloning disease genes in higher eukaryotes and the production of transgenic plants and animals.

Neuronal Transduction and Transmission (Autumn)

The module follows a logical progression from sensory transduction, the point of entry of information into the brain, to an analysis of neuron-to-neuron communication through both chemical and electrical synapses. Transduction mechanisms in the visual and auditory modalities are the main focus, though other sensory modalities are also discussed. An overview of synaptic physiology is provided as an introduction to a detailed analysis of pre- and post-synaptic cell and molecular mechanisms. Non-synaptic information processing will also be introduced. Finally the module considers whether there are limits to the molecular reductionism approach to the problem of how the brain works.

Topics in Cognitive Neuroscience (Autumn)

The module aims to introduce students to various research topics in cognitive neuroscience and explain how neuroimaging and non-invasive brain stimulation techniques have been used to uncover neural basis of cognitive functions in humans. In this module, students will learn a variety of methods used in cognitive neuroscience and how they are applied in practice. Following a discussion of the main methods, the remaining lectures will be organised around a series of different cognitive functions such as visual processing, subliminal perception, attention and memory.

Drugs, Brain and Behaviour (Spring)

Drugs, Brain and Behaviour offers students 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 course 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, morphine), psychomotor stimulants (amphetamine, cocaine), sedative-hypnotics (alcohol, barbiturates, 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. Students who are not enrolled on the BSc Psychology course at Sussex are expected to be familiar with the material covered in these modules.

Foundations of Neuroscience (Part 2- Spring)

Foundations in Neuroscience is intended primarily for students who have not studied neuroscience at BSc level, and combines a substantial lecture course (level 5) with journal club-style seminars specifically for Masters students based on the primary reserach literature. Part 2 of the module can be taken separately and focusses on neural circuitry.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (Spring)

1. Demonstrate an understanding of the usefulness and limitations of fMRI
2. Evaluate current research in the field in terms of their methodological adequacy and soundness of their interpretations
3. Perform the main stages of pre-processing and statistical analysis of fMRI data

Neuronal Plasticity and Gene Regulation (Spring)

This module will consider how cellular and molecular mechanisms interact in the regulation of neural functions underlying plasticity. Particular emphasis will be placed on mechanisms that mediate the acquisition, processing and storage of information by the nervous system. The role of unconventional neurotransmitters such as endogenous nitric oxide and endocannabinoids in neuronal plasticity will also be discussed. This will be followed by lectures on unconventional molecular mechanisms controlling gene expression in the CNS. Specifically, we will review the recent advances in our understanding of how epigenetic regulation and non-coding RNAs contribute to functional plasticity in the nervous system.

Protein Form and Function (Spring)

Proteins underlie all biological processes. The question is how? The PFF module will help you puzzle over this question: the fields of protein folding, engineering and design are in their infancies, and we have much to learn before we fully understand and can manipulate proteins. What is clear, however, is that protein structure is central to protein function. This module will provide a sense of how protein structures are related to each other and of how these structures relate to protein function. More importantly, however, this module will equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills to allow you to learn about and appreciate the remarkable class of molecule.

The first part of the PFF module necessarily re-covers some of the subject matter visited in first and second-year modules. However, aspects of protein structure are covered in much more detail. In particular, a number of sessions are used to introduce computational and experimental techniques that are essential for studying proteins. This work provides the basis for the in depth discussion of the evolution of proteins, the specifics of protein functions such as protein interactions and protein regulation and finally how proteins fold and how misfolding can lead to disease.

Sensory Function and Computation (Spring)

Comparing the organisation of sensory modalities reveals common conceptual principles underlying how sensory information is processed and transformed, as well as mechanisms characteristic to each modality, which correspond to the distinct ways in which the nervous system extracts signals from different types of physical energy. This module will teach fundamental concepts in sensory coding: feature detection, adaptive representations, coding by spike rates and timing, and population coding. It will incorporate seminars as well as workshops where computer code will be introduced and used to analyse and simulate sensory coding by neurons.

Structure and Function in the Brain (Spring)

The aim of the module is to reveal the anatomical substrates on which the processing of sensory information and the generation of motor commands depend. Specific attention will be paid to the relationship between structure and function. The module will give a comparative interpretation of the anatomy of brain regions and their cellular components using a variety of examples including vertebrate and invertebrate models. The module will provide basic knowledge of the main techniques used to study the functional anatomy of the brain at systems, cellular and molecular levels. This module is especially suitable for students with solid neuroscience background who would like to have a deeper understanding of how the main sensory systems (vision, hearing, smell, taste, balance) work on the circuits and systems level.

Topics in Gene Manipulation/ Molecular Cell Biology (Spring)

The aim of this module is to introduce interesting areas of research in the fields of genetic manipulation and molecular and cell biology and to investigate the use of research techniques in these areas. Topics include gene expression profiling, functional genomics, genetic analysis of the cell-cycle and protein engineering. The teaching and learning on this module involves a one-hour introductory lecture on the topic followed by group seminar-style learning sessions the following week. The seminar sessions will be in a variety of formats that may include group presentations, method analysis/design or research paper-based discussions.