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Module PPP-4032:
Brain Stimulation Methods

Module Facts

Run by School of Psychology

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Richard Binney

Overall aims and purpose

Brain stimulation techniques are increasingly widespread in the cognitive and clinical neurosciences, and are being steadily incorporated into medical practice. They have led to genuine advances in understanding of perception and cognition, and hold promise as a potential intervention for a range of motor, cognitive and psychiatric disorders. Therefore, a knowledge of, and experience with these techniques are increasingly seen an essential part of the repertoires of both researchers and clinicians alike.

This module aims to establish a solid understanding of the principles of invasive and non-invasive brain stimulation techniques and their applications, including their limitations and associated practical challenges. It provides an introduction to effective study design for both experimental and clinical translational research using some of these techniques, as well as practical experience with TMS and tES.

Course content

The course will provide an introduction to the underlying principles of various brain stimulation techniques, such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), transcranial Electrical Stimulation (tES), intraoperative stimulation procedures/techniques, and deep Brain Stimulation. These techniques will be discussed in a number of contexts, such as theory development in neuroscience and clinical/practical applications. Consideration with be given to effective study design in research, safety and ethical concerns, and theoretical and practical challenges in using brain stimulation techniques.

Assessment Criteria


C+ to C- Work displays knowledge of key areas/principles, with limited evidence of original interpretation or relevant background study. The work contains some irrelevant material and weaknesses in structure. Arguments are presented, but they lack coherence. The work contains factual or computational errors with little evidence of problem solving. There are weaknesses in the standard of the presentation and its accuracy.


B+ to B- Work displays sound knowledge and understanding, but with some limitations. There is evidence of background study. The work has a defined and logical structure, but with some weaknesses in the way in which arguments are presented. There is some original interpretation and demonstration of understanding of links between topics. The work is presented carefully with accurate communication and few factual or computational errors.


A to A-* Work displays comprehensive knowledge and detailed understanding, reflecting extensive background study. The work is highly focussed, well structured, logically presented, and with defended arguments. The work contains original interpretation, and new links between topics are developed. The work is presented to a high standard, with accurate communication and no factual or computational errors.

Learning outcomes

  1. Ability to demonstrate a strong understanding of the practical, safety and ethical considerations in using brain stimulation methods

  2. Ability to comprehensively describe the principle mechanisms of brain stimulation techniques and critically evaluate the assumptions underlying their application.

  3. Ability to demonstrate an understanding of the utility of brain stimulation methods in the development of neuroscientific theory, and their limitations, relative to other techniques like functional neuroimaging.

  4. Ability to identify strong/poor practice in the application of brain stimulation within research, and formulate a well-controlled experiment and testable hypotheses for potential scientific advancements.

  5. Ability to critically evaluate the available evidence for the effectiveness of using brain stimulation for enhancing human performance and/or neurorehabilatation.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY Brain Stimulation in Neuroscience

Discussion of the principle mechanisms of brain stimulation techniques and how they can be used to advance our understanding of human cognition and the brain. The discussion will include examples of published studies that address a key neuroscience question and will evaluate their particular contribution

ESSAY Brain Stimulation: Real World Applications

A critical review of empirical research examining the effectiveness of brain stimulation for enhancing human performance and/or neurorehabilatation, and a brief proposal for a novel investigation that addresses current gaps in the literature

SUMMATIVE THEORETICAL ASSMT Brain Stimulation: Safe and Best Practice

Students will be examined on their understanding of the practical, safety and ethical considerations in using brain stimulation methods. This includes a multiple choice quiz with 16 questions to be completed within 15 minutes with a pass rate of 80%. It also includes a 15 minute observation of the student demonstrating safe practice with specialist equipment, which is marked on a pass/fail basis. These two components can be repeated as often as required to pass but the pass grade must be accomplished for the student to progress to their dissertations


Teaching and Learning Strategy


8 x 2hr lectures




Discussion: 11 x 1 hr discussions on lecture materials and selected readings

Practical classes and workshops

3 x 2hr practical lessons and demonstrations

Private study

Amounting to 14.2 hours a week, for 11 weeks.


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.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • 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

  • 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.
  • Be sensitive and react appropriately to contextual and interpersonal psychological factors.
  • 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.
  • Carry out empirical studies by operationalizing research questions, generating hypotheses, collecting data using a variety of methods, analysing data using quantitative and/or qualitative methods, and present and evaluate research findings (under appropriate supervision).
  • 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.
  • Use a variety of psychological tools, including specialist software, laboratory equipment and psychometric instruments.
  • Be aware of ethical principles and approval procedures.


Resource implications for students

There are no costs to students.

Reading list

Primary research articles, Clinical reports, and book chapters from Handbooks on Neuroscience, Neurorehabilitation, and Psychology.

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: