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Module PLP-3002:
Brain and Language

Module Facts

Run by School of Psychology

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Marie-Josephe Tainturier

Overall aims and purpose

Language is a wondrous feat of the human brain. By allowing us to communicate our thoughts and feelings through space and time, it is a central pillar of the most extraordinary accomplishments of humankind. But how does it work? What when we speak more than one language? What when things go wrong? In this advanced module we will explore several aspects of spoken and written language abilities in both impaired and unimpaired populations. We will examine research evidence from cognitive psychology (errors, reaction times) and neuroscience (brain imaging, evoked potentials, brain stimulation). In addition, we will consider how the study of language disorders (e.g., aphasia, dyslexia) contributes to a better understanding of the neural bases of language.

Course content

In this advanced module we will explore several aspects of spoken and written language processing in normal and impaired populations. Specific topics will include: Understanding spoken words, producing words, reading and writing, bilingualism. We will review research evidence from converging sources: cognitive psychology (errors, reaction times), neuroscience (brain imaging, evoked potentials, brain stimulation) and neuropsychology (e.g., aphasia, dyslexia). We will discuss which methods are best suited to tackle different questions and how to gage the strength of the evidence in favour of different viewpoints.

Assessment Criteria


Reasonably 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.


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

Learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate their ability to relate data to theory on topics presented in lectures.

  2. Demonstrate their ability to interpret findings from cognitive neuropsychology and brain-imaging studies.

  3. Critically evaluate research articles related to the topics covered.

  4. Present a clear summary of one or more research articles.

  5. Write a proposal for a new study into one of the topics covered.

  6. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of different methods used to study brain and language

  7. Demonstrate their ability to present research findings to a student audience.

  8. Demonstrate engagement with the materials in weekly seminars

  9. Critically evaluate and offer constructive feedback on colleagues’ presentations

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Written assignment, including essay Project proposal

Written research proposal on a topic of your own choosing related to the course content.

COURSEWORK Critical mini-report

Four brief critical evaluations of assigned research papers (12%). Due: On weeks 5, 7, 9 and 11 (26, 28, 30, 32). The lowest mark will be dropped so that each of your three best critiques will count for 4% of your module mark.

ORAL Oral presentation of one research study

A powerpoint presentation and discussion of one assigned research paper. Students will work in pairs for a total presentation time of 20 minutes (10 minutes each + question time). Due: On one allocated week starting from Week 3. Slides must be submitted on the day.

CLASS PARTICIPATION Class participation at weekly seminars and group work sessions

Seminar attendance and participation. Allowance is given to miss one session (or more if mitigating circumstances). Marked on an exemption basis for each session (full points if completed).

ORAL Practice proposal presentation

A 5 minutes presentation and class discussion of your ideas for a study to be developed in the final assignment (Project Proposal). This is a formative assessment to prepare students for the final assignment. Slides to be submitted. Due: Week 12


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Seminars will take place weekly from the third week. Students will be actively involved in the delivery of these seminars, through oral presentations and group discussions. The module convener will assign the readings and guide the discussions. Oral presentations will take place during the first hour, followed by group work in the second hour. During the final seminar, students will present their ideas for a research proposal informally. They will receive feedback from the lecturers and fellow students in order to facilitate the preparation of the final assignment.

Private study 152

Each lecture will focus on one topic, explaining key concepts and presenting empirical evidence from studies using a variety of methods. Together with the assigned readings, the lectures will provide the background needed for the weekly seminars and related assignments.


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
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • 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.
  • Engage in effective teamwork for the purpose of collaborating on psychological projects.
  • Use effectively personal planning and project management skills.
  • Work effectively under pressure (time pressure, limited resources, etc) as independent and pragmatic learners.
  • 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.

Apply understanding of research methods and data analysis to the critical evaluation of research studies


Resource implications for students

Several copies of the core text will be on short loan in the library. However, purchase is recommended, especially for students who will be taking other neuroscience modules.

Reading list

Core text: Ward, J. (2010 or later edition). The Student Guide to Cognitive Neuroscience. Hove: Psychology Press.

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: