Module code: BS2015

Module co-ordinator: Dr Martine Hamann

This module provides an integrated description of brain function from molecular aspects of synaptic transmission and plasticity to higher cognitive function that regulates behaviour. Building on the cellular neuroscience introduced in the first year module Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience, this module will enhance your understanding of the structure, organisation and function of the nervous system and its components, and also the molecular basis of neuronal function including synaptic anatomy and physiology. You will study the core principles of ion channel function, membrane excitability and synaptic transmission, leading to a coherent concept of neurosciences as an integrative and evolutionary discipline. We will explore signal transduction related to difference senses including vision and hearing in order to provide an overview of how the nervous system adapts or mal-adjusts in response to external or genetic factors.

Topics covered

  • Cell types present in the peripheral and central nervous system and how these systems form
  • Properties of ion channels and how they contribute to the resting membrane potential and the propagation of the action potential
  • Types of cell surface receptor for neurotransmitters and hormones; difference between voltage- and ligand-gated ion channels
  • Mechanisms by which nervous impulses are conducted along the axons of myelinated and unmyelinated axons
  • Basic molecular mechanisms underlying chemical transmission in the nervous system
  • How action potentials and voltage-sensitive calcium channels regulate neurotransmission
  • Neurone communication, e.g. synaptic transmission and electrical coupling
  • Integration of synaptic information and the synaptic basis of LTP and LTD
  • How ion channels and cell surface receptors contribute to cell function in physiological systems, e.g. the retina and auditory systems
  • How drug development can be used to elucidate the nature of the molecular targets used in the treatment of specific CNS disorders
  • How neuroscience concepts relate to animal and human psychology and behaviour
  • Mechanisms of action for drugs of abuse and the use of drugs to treat neurological and psychiatric disorders
  • Electrophysiological and imaging techniques


  • 28 one-hour lectures
  • 9 hours of practicals
  • 4 one-hour tutorials


  • Exam, 3 hours (70%)
  • Practical report (20%)
  • Test and tutorials (10%)