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Module PCP-3009:
Control of Mental Processes

Module Facts

Run by School of Psychology

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Paloma Mari-Beffa

Overall aims and purpose

This module will provide a deeper understanding of basic mechanisims of executive functions with the idea of seeking their potential application in normal and special populations. After reviewing some of the theoretical modules created to account for these processes, students will be presented with a closer look at the neural structures responsible for cognitive control while linking it with analyses of its abnormal functioning, particularly in typical examples of loss of executive control.

Throughout the module students will present case studies in which a particular intervention to improve some of these functions is presented. Each case will be followed by a discussion on the basic cognitive mechanisms underlying the problem and its solution, particularly in typical examples of loss of executive control.

The aim of the module is to empower students with analytical skills used in Neurocognitive assessment to explain executive function in normal and special populations.

Course content


Assessment Criteria


Adequate answer to the question, largely based on lecture materinal. No real development of arguments.


Reasonable comprehensive coverage. Well organised and structured. Good understanding of the material.


Comprehensive and accurate coverage of the area. Clarity of argument and expression. Depth of insight into theoretical issues.

Learning outcomes

  1. To understand the coordination across multiple cognitive processes needed for a particular action.

  2. To know and understand the basic mechanisms behind cognitive control.

  3. To be able to use cognitive theories to explain behaviour.

  4. To know the mechanisms studied by each of the cognitive paradigms.

  5. To be able to apply this knowledge to individual cases.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight

These presentations will be done in pairs. Student 1 will present a clinical case and student 2 will analyse it in neurocognitive terms. I will only present the pairs here and students are free to decide who covers each part. Each presentation will consist of 3 parts: 1) Talk. Clinical Case, led by student 1 (max 10 minutes in the case of a talk). They should be on a clinical case that presents executive problems. They could be either from existing publications, or from your own experience (if you choose this option, please change the details for the story -name, location, age, social status, occupation, gender, affiliation, etc. - as much as possible to make its main character completely anonymous and unrecognizable). For those choosing to do the oral presentation, it is very important that you never reveal the diagnostic at this stage, so students exercise their clinical skills. 2) Questions, Diagnostics, Analysis, Comments, led by all students in the class (max 10 minutes). 3) Talk. Analysis of the case in Neurocognitive terms, led by student 2 (max 10 minutes), with special emphasis on the Executive Functions. This case should be then analysed with respect to the sub-processes and parameters studied during the formal lectures and their possible brain localisation. These presentations will be marked on the spot, and you will receive feedback afterwards; although the grade will not be revealed until the end of the module, so all students receive it at the same time. 35% of the module’s grade comes from this presentation (25% from the lecturer and second marker, and 10% from peers). Contribution from the audience during the Talks will make up an additional 5% in this module. It is expected that to reach the full 5% grade there should be at least an average of two questions for each weekly session, although additional comments are encouraged. These will be recorded by the second marker during the sessions. These will begin in the fourth week of Semester 2 and will run until the end of it.

EXAM Final Exam

It contains three parts: a) Part A. 50 MCQs where only one option is correct (50% of the grade); b) PART B. Essay questions on theoretical issues (25%) They should answer one of three options with a maximum of 500 words; c) PART C. Essay questions on clinical cases (25%). They should make up a case of a person demonstrating problems in only one of three possible executive sub-processes, feeling free to choose any scenario and syndrome. They should clearly describe the symptoms that would lead the student to believe that there is such underlying deficit. There is a maximum of 500 words.


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Lecture 11
Workshop 33
Private study 156

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • 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

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: