Selected Topics in Brain Science

MRI scan of the human brain


Neuroscience of Mental Health

This module will provide students with an introduction to the principles, scope and applications of the major neuroscience research methods currently used in mental health research. The module is organised by the members of the Department of Mental Health Neuroscience in the Division of Psychiatry. The Head of Department is Elvira Bramon. Active researchers in the field of biological psychiatry will teach all elements of the module, which includes practical elements such as lab visits, and introduction to DNA and EEG analysis. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/psychiatry/study-here/mhs-modules/neuroscience-in-mental-health.

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Introduction to the Brain and Imaging the Brain 

The module will introduce students to the central nervous system and to the functional localization of different parts of the brain. Particular emphasis will be placed on brain structures known to be involved in language processing. Students will learn about the different imaging technologies currently in use (MRI and fMRI, ERP and MEG and TMS), their relative strengths and weaknesses; the principles upon which they are based; the research designs employed by them; and the interpretation of brain images derived from their use. The module will be taught by researchers who are experts in their field.  

The objective of the module is to enable students to read, understand and evaluate journal articles that report studies based on lesion analysis and imaging technologies and provide the base for carrying out similar work for their project and/or in their future career.

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Introduction to Cognitive Science 

This module introduces the foundations of cognitive science, highlighting its interdisciplinary nature. A historical review will include seminal work in computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, psychology and philosophy. The central metaphor of the mind as an information processor will be introduced, and various computational models of cognition discussed, raising questions of cognitive architecture, modularity, symbolic versus connectionist representation, algorithms for learning and reasoning etc. Philosophical issues will also be explored, including classical theories and current debates in the philosophy of mind. 

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Principles of Cognition 

This module outlines general theoretical principles that underlie cognitive processes across many domains, ranging from perception and memory, to reasoning and decision making. The focus will be on general, quantitative regularities, and the degree to which theories focusing on specific cognitive scientific topics can be constrained by such principles. There will be particular emphasis on understanding cognitive principles that are relevant to theories of decision making. The course will also deal with the issue of which mental processes are subject to general theoretical principles, and which must be understood one-by-one.  

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Molecular Pharmacology 

The course deals with the quantitative principles that underlie the study of the action of drugs at receptors beginning with the physical chemical principles which underlie drug-receptor interactions. The molecular nature of receptors is considered in detail and a critical and quantitative approach to the analysis and interpretation of pharmacological data is developed. On completion of the course, students should have a detailed knowledge of the following topics 1) Use of the Law of Mass Action to quantify the interaction of drugs and receptors 2) The action of agonists and antagonists and the concept of efficacy 3) Ion channel receptors and their regulation and block 4) Receptor structure 5) Radioligand binding.

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Developmental Neurobiology 

The course will cover early development of the nervous system (including induction and initial patterning of the CNS, neural progenitors, and genetic analysis of laterality in the developing CNS), origin of neural phenotypes (including organizer patterning in the CNS, migration of cortical neurons and motor circuitry in the developing spinal cord), peripheral development (including neurogenesis and neuron-glial switch, and regulation of Schwann cell development and differentiation), and axons, synapses and circuits (including axon guidance in the visual system of Drosophila, axon outgrowth: Ca2+ in growth cones, and early motor neurone-target interactions). 

The students will become familiar with the cutting edge research done at UCL into Developmental Neurobiology. They will grasp and understand the knowledge of the research in this field as it progresses. They will learn about the initial patterning of the nervous system, neuronal differentiation and specification, axon guidance mechanisms and the initial formation of synapses during development. The module will be organized roughly in accordance with the ontogeny of development itself.

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Introduction to Sensory Systems, Technologies and Therapies

This module provides students with an opportunity to explore the multifaceted world of the senses. Topics covered will include the diversity, development, evolution, function and homeostasis (e.g. regeneration) of sensory systems, carving out both unifying principles and unique features of biological sensors. A particular focus will be given to the senses of hearing and vision, addressing e.g. questions of processing and perception of auditory and visual information, common causes of auditory and visual dysfunction, or the central question how basic research can fuel the development of new sensory therapies. 

The module will aim to provide students with a multi-level understanding of the organization, mode of action, pathologies, and therapies of sensory systems. In this multi-sensory and highly interdisciplinary module, students will discover the fascinating similarities in the molecular make-up and neuro-computational processing across sensory organs and systems, thereby also gaining a better understanding of the rocky road from science to therapy (or ‘bench to bedside’). Finally, students will be given an opportunity to put to their own (basic or translational) sensory research ideas to a first (academic) test, through an essay and oral presentation designed as a research proposal.

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Receptors and Synaptic Signalling

How the world of ion channels, neurotransmitters and their receptors contribute to neuronal processing will be explored. From the biophysical properties of ion channels to exploring their role in synaptic plasticity and neuropathologies. The module will aim to expose students to the world-class research in the neuroscience of synaptic transmission and ion channel function as it is done at UCL. Students will become familiar with the cutting-edge research done at UCL into synaptic physiology. They will grasp and understand the knowledge of the research in this field as it progresses. They will learn about individual ion channel families and how their expression and pharmacological properties influence the firing capacity of individual neurons within neuronal circuits. 

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Page last modified on 30 may 17 11:34