Module PCP-3007:
Bio. Foundations of Memory

Module Facts

Run by School of Psychology

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Stephan Boehm

Overall aims and purpose

This module will provide an introduction into the biological bases of learning and memory. The aim of this course is to enable you to gain an understanding of the neural underpinnings of memory and how these are investigated.

Course content

We will examine the biology of learning and memory at various levels of the brain, from changes in the transmission between neurons to changes in the activity of single nerve cells and whole brain areas. We will look at learning and memory from various perspectives like animal studies with aplysia and monkeys, brain imaging studies with event-related brain potentials and functional imaging, and lessons learned from memory-impaired patients and drug abuse. The module will also highlight core experimental approaches and research designs that enable the investigation of the multitude of existing memory forms in humans, higher mammals and other species.

This multi-faceted module is challenging and rewarding; it has a strong emphasis on neurobiology and neuropsychology, and it depends on a fair amount of understanding of research technology and approaches. Early lectures will cover the neurobiology of learning and memory in the intact human brain from the perspective of event-related brain potentials and functional imaging. The middle section of the module will look at the neuroanatomy of human memory and describe the key lessons learned from memory-impaired patients like H.M and those with Korsakoff’s syndrome. A central part of this middle section will be based on mocked neuropsychological examinations of amnesic patients we will conduct in the classroom. In later lectures, we will complement and round up what we have learned from studying humans by looking into the cellular, molecular and pharmacological underpinnings of memory in humans, monkeys and aplysia. The book-ends of the lecture consist of an introductory session, which covers an introduction to the multitude of forms of learning and memory and outlines the key questions behind the module (From synapses and single cells to brain systems and brain-lesioned patients – how does it all fit together? Does it all fit together?), and a closing lecture, where we review the key findings of the lectures both in preparation for the final exam and in an attempt to develop an answer to the key questions.

This module will showcase studies that have become classics in Neuroscience and Neuropsychology, together with the very latest developments in memory research.

Assessment Criteria


Reasonably comprehensive coverage. Good understanding of memory types, their neural underpinnings, and the associated investigation approaches.


Very Comprehensive and accurate coverage. Depth of insight into memory types, their neural underpinnings, and the associated investigation approaches.


Adequately addressing the question, but with limited understanding of memory types, their neural underpinnings, and the associated investigation approaches.

Learning outcomes

  1. Describe the various types of learning and memory found in humans and other species, and understand how different types of learning and memory can be investigated individually.

  2. Demonstrate knowledge of various parts of the nervous system involved in learning and memory, and understand the relationsips between these brain systems and the specific types of learning and memory they support.

  3. Understand the ways in which learning and memory is reflected in neural activity, from synaptic changes to firing of single cells to electrical brain potentials and hemodynamic modulations of whole brain areas.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
EXAM Final Exam 60
ESSAY Short Essay 40

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Lecture 22
Private study 178

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Understand the scientific underpinnings of psychology as a discipline.
  • Apply multiple perspectives to psychological issues and integrate ideas and findings across the multiple perspectives in psychology.
  • Communicate psychological concepts effectively in written form.
  • Communicate psychological concepts effectively in oral form.
  • Be computer literate for the purpose of processing and disseminating psychological data and information.
  • Retrieve and organise information effectively.
  • Handle primary source material critically.
  • Use effectively personal planning and project management skills.
  • Problem-solve by clarifying questions, considering alternative solutions, making critical judgements, and evaluating outcomes.
  • Reason scientifically and demonstrate the relationship between theory and evidence.
  • Understand and investigate the role of brain function in all human behaviour and experience.
  • Comprehend and use psychological data effectively, demonstrating a systematic knowledge of the application and limitations of various research paradigms and techniques.
  • Employ evidence-based reasoning and examine practical, theoretical and ethical issues associated with the use of different methodologies, paradigms and methods of analysis in psychology.

Courses including this module