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Introduction to Biological Psychology

Module titleIntroduction to Biological Psychology
Module codePSY1202
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Tim Fawcett (Convenor)

Dr Chris Dodds (Lecturer)

Dr Ciro Civile (Lecturer)

Dr Tobias Stevens (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

In this module you are introduced to the basic concepts of the physiological and neurobiological mechanisms underlying the generation and control of behaviour. Topics covered include the structure and functions of brains, neuronal communication, and how genes, hormones and neurotransmitters in various physiological processes affect behaviour, cognition, emotions, motivation and development. Although largely focused on the human body and brain, the module also shows how research on animal model systems, as diverse as squids, snails and rodents, has advanced our understanding of the mechanisms and functions of the human nervous system, cognition and behaviour. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

The primary aim of this module is to introduce you to the fundamental biological mechanisms underlying the behaviour of humans and other animals  with a focus on neurophysiology, functional anatomy of the human brain, perception, communication, and the development and evolution of nervous systems. You will develop a firm foundation of knowledge in neuroscience and physiology of behaviour that links to cognitive and clinical psychology. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Understand and use subject-specific concepts and terminology
  • 2. Examine the biological correlates of behaviour at different levels
  • 3. Describe human behaviour in an interdisciplinary fashion
  • 4. Give examples of the research methodologies that will be introduced in the practical sessions
  • 5. Relate these methods to the phenomena introduced in the module

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Describe basic and essential facts and concepts in biological psychology
  • 7. Review and evaluate published work and identify some of the strengths and weaknesses of this work at a basic level
  • 8. Structure this literature to present logical and coherent arguments at a basic level
  • 9. Address well-defined problems systematically, think critically and creatively, and begin to appreciate the complexities of the issues at a basic level
  • 10. Understand and apply essential principles in designing research, evaluate and analyse empirical evidence, and assess the reliability of empirical evidence using defined techniques at a basic level
  • 11. Describe briefly the ethical issues relating to the subject and its application

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 12. Work effectively with others as a member of a group and meet obligations to others
  • 13. Work within an appropriate ethos and access and use a range of learning resources
  • 14. Evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses within set criteria, and seek and make use of feedback
  • 15. Manage information, collect appropriate information from a range of sources and undertake essential study tasks under guidance
  • 16. Take responsibility for your own learning with appropriate support
  • 17. Communicate effectively within the format of the discipline
  • 18. Apply methods accurately and carefully to a well-defined problem and begin to appreciate the complexity of the issues
  • 19. Manage time effectively to meet deadlines

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Taught materials will cover a wide range of topics required to build a solid foundation of knowledge in neuroscience and physiology of behaviour that is required for further study at stages 2 and 3 (levels 5 and 6) as well as in related modules such as Cognitive and Clinical Psychology.

Topics include the structure, functions and signals of neurons, principles of neuronal communication, synaptic transmission of information, functional anatomy of the brain, methods for studying the brain, evolution of neural systems, motor control, sex differences, the role of genes and environmental cues, chemical messengers in brain and body, senses and perception.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching3Tutorials
Scheduled Learning and Teaching6Practicals
Guided Independent Study15Collating lecture notes
Guided Independent Study30Set and supplementary reading
Guided Independent Study30Research and preparation of critical review
Guided Independent Study44Revision and exam preparation


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Tutorials3 x 1 hourAllOral
Practicals3 x 2 hoursAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination501 hour1-10Generic feedback (comments posted on ELE)
Critical review501500 words1-11, 13-19Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExaminationExamination1-10August Ref/Def
Critical reviewCritical review1-11, 13-19August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Two assessments are required for this module. Where you have been referred/deferred in the examination you will have the opportunity to take a second examination in the August/September re-assessment period. Where you have been referred/deferred in the critical review you will be required to resubmit the critical review. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%; deferred marks are not capped.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Breedlove, S.M. & Watson, N.J. Biological Psychology. Sunderland- Massachusetts: Sinauer Ass.
  • Pinel, J.P.J. Biopsychology. Allyn and Bacon
  • Ward, J. The Student’s Guide to Cognitive Neuroscience. Psychology Press

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Psychology, biological, neuroscience, physiology, behaviour, brain, perception, senses

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date