Taught modules

The following are examples of relevant modules that are currently available for PhD students to audit (these may be subject to change for 2022-23):

  • Intelligence in Animals and Machines (Autumn)

    The module will develop 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, tool-use, 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.

  • Mathematics and Computational Models for Complex Systems (Autumn)

    This module provides a foundation in mathematical and scientific computing techniques used in various fields, including artificial intelligence, artificial life, data science, and computational neuroscience. The topics covered also provide the necessary theoretical grounding for a number of modules in Informatics MSc courses, including Adaptive Systems and Machine Learning.

    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 introduces students to a wide variety of topics in cognitive neuroscience that are not covered by dedicated modules. Teaching is provided by active researchers and experts in cognitive neuroscience. Students will explore the field through lectures and journal clubs as well as gain opportunities to focus research interests through self-directed presentations and study topics. The aim of the course is to generate the ability to discuss and critique current cognitive neuroscience research through a general well-rounded knowledge of topics, methods and good practice. Topics covered by lectures include (but are subject to change): an introduction to methods, neurophysiology, memory, vision, emotion, embodied cognition, reward and decision-making, animal and genetic models of cognition, dementia, event-related potentials and individual-difference approaches to cognitive neuroscience.

  • Advanced Research Methods in Psychology (runs throughout the year)

    In this module you will learn about various advanced research methods which may include statistical techniques in psychology, by exploring their theoretical basis and their practical application.

    We suggest that this is counted as a Spring option, although some workshops may be scheduled during the Autumn term.

  • 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)

    This module is based on a substantial undergraduate lecture series, Neural Circuits, together with “journal club” style tutorials for Masters students. Foundations of Neuroscience 2 is intended primarily for students who have not specialised in neuroscience at BSc level.

    Topics covered include:
    • Organisation and modulation of central pattern generator (CPG) circuits
    • Advanced techniques for monitoring and manipulating neural circuits
    • Modelling of neural circuits
    • Sensory and motor functions of spinal cord circuits
    • Brain circuits underlying motor control
    • Circuits underlying non-associative and associative learning
    • Addiction and learning circuits
    • Defects in circuits
    • Development of neural circuits

  • Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (Spring)

    This module provides an advanced level of theoretical and practical knowledge in the technique of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Topics covered include the physical and physiological basis of MRI and fMRI; different study designs in functional imaging research; stages of pre-processing and analysis of data; and interpretation of results. It is expected that students will be able to make a contribution to a real, ongoing fMRI study in terms of observing and/or participating in its execution and contributing to the analysis of the study. Students will gain hands-on experience of Statistical Parametric Mapping (SPM) software for analysing fMRI data that is invaluable for future research in this area.

  • 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 cover the development of the anatomical features of the nervous system and 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.