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Module PPP-4004:
Bio Bases of Neuro Disorders

Module Facts

Run by School of Psychology

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof Debbie Mills

Overall aims and purpose

This module provides students with an integrated perspective on neurodevelopmental disorders that emphasizes the biological contributions to behaviours. The course will focus on the neural substrates associated with deficits of both affective and cognitive mechanisms. The module will illustrate how a convergent interdisciplinary approach between basic neuroscience, cognitive neuropsychology and clinical psychiatry is providing a new and integrated model from which we can better understand psychological disorders. The objectives of this course are to provide the student with a basic foundation for understanding the relationship between the brain and abnormal behaviour. This will require that we 1) place abnormal behaviour within its larger historical and social context, 2) develop an understanding of how research is done in this field, 3) appreciate the fundamentals of the human nervous system, and 4) discuss the biology of specific brain systems and certain psychology disorders

Course content

The module will provide insights into aspects of clinical and basic neuroscience that are critical for understanding the neurobiological basis of mental illness. Topics will include: The functional organization of the human brain; The structure and function of neurons, neural transmission and basic neuropharmacology; Principles of neuropsychological assessment; Principles of neurdodevelopment; Genetics (as relevant for Neurodevelopmental Disorders); Systems neuroscience, as revealed by neurophysiology and neuropsychology, relevant to understanding of major neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism, Williams Syndrome, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Schizophrenia.

Assessment Criteria


• Knowledge of key areas/principles • Understands the main elements of the subject area • Limited evidence of background study • Answer focussed on question but also with some irrelevant material and weaknesses in structure • Arguments presented but lack coherence • Has several factual/computational errors • No original interpretation • Only major links between topics are described • Limited problem solving • Some weaknesses in presentation and accuracy


• Strong knowledge • Understands most but not all of the subject area • Evidence of background study • Focussed answer with good structure • Arguments presented coherently • Mostly free of factual/computational errors • Some limited original interpretation • Well known links between topics described • Problems addressed by existing methods/approaches • Good presentation with accurate communication


• Comprehensive knowledge • Detailed understanding of subject area • Extensive background study • Highly focussed answer and well structured • Logically presented and defended arguments • No factual/computational errors • Original interpretation • New links between topics are developed • New approach to a problem • Excellent presentation with very accurate communication

Learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate a familiarity with the anatomical and functional organisation of the human brain, including the principles of synaptic transmission, and particularly of those neural and major neurotransmitter systems that play a major role in the development of psychological disorders.

  2. Discuss the neural systems that regulate learning, motivation, emotion and executive control in the service of goal-directed behaviour.

  3. Evaluate how basic neuroscience research throws light onto a variety of human mental disorders, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, schizophrenia etc.

  4. Understand neurodevelopmental disorders as bio-psycho-social entities.

  5. Understand how genetic research can help elucidating the (complex) aetiologies of neurodevelopmental disorders.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
EXAM Mid Term Exam

The midterm exam is short answer and fill in the blank in format. It covers the lecture material prior to reading week. Sample questions will be provided at the end of each lecture.

EXAM Final Exam

The first part of the final exam is like a second midterm in format and scope. It is worth 25% of the module grade. The second part of the final exam consists of approximately 10 essay questions that integrate across topics. The essay part of the final exam is worth 45% of the grade and covers material from across the entire module. Sample essay questions will be provided prior to the exam.


One page type written 12 pt font. This is an individual assignment you may NOT work together General comments: ◦ You will watch a video at the end of the assessment lecture (It will also be available online) You will be asked several questions about the video regarding assessment, diagnosis, biological bases, and treatment plan. You will need to back up your choices with evidence provided in the lectures.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Students will attend a one hour workshop each week.

Private study

Students will commit approximately 10 hours each week across the entire semester, preparing for assessments and studying class material.


Students will attend a two-hour lecture each week.


Transferable skills

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

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.
  • Retrieve and organise information effectively.
  • Handle primary source material critically.
  • Work effectively under pressure (time pressure, limited resources, etc) as independent and pragmatic learners.
  • Reason scientifically and demonstrate the relationship between theory and evidence.
  • Understand and investigate the role of brain function in all human behaviour and experience.
  • 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.
  • Be aware of ethical principles and approval procedures.

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: