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Study information

Neurodegenerative disease - bench to bedside

Module titleNeurodegenerative disease - bench to bedside
Module codeNEUM004
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Emma Dempster (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module focuses on the neurobiology of neurodegenerative disorders. Specifically, the module explores the ways in which recent research has answered questions about the mechanisms of neurodegeneration and more generally how ageing affects the nervous system, yet also poses new questions. In particular, the module highlights the potential for further progress in deciphering and repairing neural circuitry by considering some of the reasons effective treatments for many neural disorders remain elusive.

The module focuses on important neurodegenerative disorders, utilising these to understand both pathology and normal physiology. The course is delivered by leading experts working in each of these disorders and will allow you to work with these researchers to identify key outstanding questions in the area of neurodegeneration and formulate a literature review to investigate your chosen disease area. This module will equip you with the theoretical, analytical, and methodological skills necessary for further postgraduate work or study in industrial or academic environments.


Module aims - intentions of the module

Through a critical exploration of primary literature, you will develop a conceptual understanding of the normal physiology of the nervous system and how this goes awry in a range of neurodegenerative disorders. You will understand how these neurological disturbances may be treated by current therapies enabling you to critically evaluate the latest discoveries and cutting-edge technologies and consider what the future may hold for improved and novel treatments. Developing insight into the limitations of investigative approaches and considering the complexity of the nervous system will enable you to comprehend the key challenges facing neuroscience and the value of an interdisciplinary approach. Critically assessing these issues will provide the basis for the generation of a relevant research hypothesis which you will be able to justify in terms of relevance to human health and the appropriate tools required.


Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Contextualise the history of neuroscience and apply to current research and future directions
  • 2. Describe and interpret clinical symptoms and prognosis for a range of neurodegenerative disorders
  • 3. Explain the cellular and molecular pathology of a range of neurodegenerative disorders
  • 4. Understand the wider aetiology of nervous system disorders and critically evaluate the therapeutic options available.
  • 5. Critically evaluate the current limitations and uncertainties in the diagnosis and treatment of the neurodegenerative disorders covered

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 6. Evaluate how the challenges in data collection faced in neuroscience are being addressed.
  • 7. Critique and evaluate recent and emerging priorities for research in neuroscience.
  • 8. Identify and explain the question that neuroscience research should prioritise answering within the next ten years

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 9. Apply critical thinking to the analysis of arguments and the evaluation of evidence
  • 10. Communicate accurately and effectively with peers, tutors and the public.
  • 11. Produce clear engaging scientific writing.
  • 12. Demonstrate effective oral presentation and explanation and evaluation of results.

Syllabus plan

The main component of the module is a series of two-week blocks focussed on different disorders, which are led by researchers at the University specialising in these diseases. Subsequently, you will undertake a literature review focused on a disorder of your choice.

Whilst the module's precise content may vary from year to year, an example of an overall structure is as follows:

Term 2, Pre-learning:

  • Introduction to the course and introduction to key concepts and terminology used in Neurodegenerative disease – bench to bedside. This is in the format of a 2-hour lecture (online videos).

Term 2, Weeks 1-11 and Term 2, Weeks 1-4:

Over a series of two-week blocks, you will investigate around five different disorders of the nervous system. These will likely comprise from the following, though the topics and their order may change depending on the availability of staff:

  • Topic 1: Prion diseases
  • Topic 2: Frontotemporal diseases
  • Topic 3: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Topic 4: Parkinson’s disease
  • Topic 5: Dementia
  • Topic 6: Choreas

Within each two week block you will have three contact sessions:

  • At the start of each topic, lecture slides, online lecture videos, journal club paper and tutorial questions, set by your expert lecturer, will be released on ELE.
  • In the first week you will have a 2-hour lecture (series of online videos), which gives a broad introduction to the condition, its prognosis and typical treatment. The lectures also consider in detail current research related to the condition. Subsequently, you will have an in-person Q and A session with the provider of the lectures to answer any questions you may have about the lecture content.  
  • Later in the first week you will attend a journal club, which will cover a paper set by the lecturer. Students will be divided into groups of up to 12 and assigned a neuroscience researcher at the University of Exeter, as a mentor. Within the journal club, you will work together with the mentor to discuss a current paper aligned with the disorder being studied. The paper will be chosen to enhance your knowledge and is not simply a repetition of the lecture content. For example, this might focus on a key or controversial issue or a recent methodology.
  • In the second week you will attend a tutorial session, run by your facilitator, and present your findings from your self-directed learning.

Term 3, Weeks 1-4:

At the end of the five topics, you will research one topic further by undertaking a literature review under the supervision of the topic’s expert lecturer.

You will sign-up for these topics using ELE and will be able to rank the different topics by preference. We will aim to assign everyone to one of their top 3 ranked choices, wherever possible.

You can meet with the expert lecturer during timetabled drop-in sessions, which will usually be held in Term 2 week 11 and Term 3 week 1 to discuss the direction of your literature review. There will also be an opportunity to attend a scientific writing skills workshop.

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 Teaching Activities1Introduction to the module lecture,
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities2.5Question and answer session for each content block 5 x 30 minutes)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities10Journal Club (5 x 2 hour)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities10Tutorials (5 x 2 hour)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities1.5Writing skills workshop
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities4Literature Review - Supervisor Meetings (2 x 2 hours)
Guided Independent Study10Lectures (5 x 2 hours); delivered online as a series of short pre-recorded videos
Guided Independent Study21Preparation for Lectures, and Wider Reading
Guided Independent Study22Preparation for Journal Club (Read Paper and Preparation of Lay Abstract)
Guided Independent Study22Preparation for Tutorials
Guided Independent Study46Preparation of extended Literature Review assignment

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Lay Abstract for Journal ClubsPeer Marking1-8,9,10,12Oral and Written
Online ELE quiz for each disease block~10 questions1-5Written

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
Extended Literature Review 903,000 words1-8, 9-11Written
Engagement with Journal clubs 5N/A1-10,12Written
Engagement with tutorials 5N/A1-10,12Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Engagement with Journal Clubs (5%)300-word lay abstract for each session missed 1-10,12Ref/def period
Engagement with Tutorials (5%)Submitting answered tutorial questions (3 from each topic missed)1-10,12Ref/def period
Extended Literature Review (90%), 3,000 wordsExtended Literature Review 1-8, 9-11Ref/def period

Re-assessment notes

If you miss 4 or more journal clubs/tutorials, you must provide mitigation for your absence to obtain a deferral of the participation component. In the case of deferral of the contribution assessment, students will be required to write a 300-word lay abstract for each session missed. Students with Individual Learning Plans referencing difficulties in group participation will be offered the option to do the re-assessment in lieu of a seminar contribution score (i.e., written abstracts). These individuals will be contacted at the start of the module and asked to choose between these two options.

Please refer to the TQA section on Referral/Deferral:

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading


  • ‘Principles of neural science’, eds. Kandel, Schwartz, Jessell
  • ‘Pharmacology’, eds. Rang, Dale, Ritter



Specific reading for each topic will be made available on ELE.



  • Browne, M, Keeley, S (2006) Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking
  • Gowers, E Greenburn S, Whitcut J (2004) The Complete Plain Words
  • Okasha, S (2004) Philosophy of Science: A very short introduction
  • Trask, R (2004) The Penguin Guide to Punctuation
  • Weston A (2009) Rulebook for Arguments
  • Writing for Science Students – Boyle & Ramsey ISBN-13: 978-1137571519
    • Chapter 10 – Being Critical
    • Chapter 11 – Producing a draft and building your argument
    • Chapter 12 – Sounding like a scientist
    • Chapter 13 - Say exactly what you mean
  • Critical Thinking and Persuasive writing for postgraduates – Katz ISBN: 978-1-137-60442-2

Key words search

Neuroscience, brain, neurodegeneration, anatomy, synapse, neurotransmitter, disease, disorder 

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


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