Neurobiology and Animal Behaviour

Module code: BS2077

Module co-ordinator: Dr Jonathan McDearmid

In this module you will study the neural and evolutionary basis of animal behaviour.You will learn how nervous systems function to generate behaviour in a wide range of animal species including how neural networks underpin bat echolocation and barn owl sound localisation. We will explore how experience shapes wiring of the developing brain and how neurons are able to store and retrieve information. You will also study how ecological pressures shape the evolution of animal behaviour; how factors such as limitation of resources, predation, parental care and animal cooperation work together to the determine characteristics of various animal species.

Topics covered

  • Principles of neuronal organisation that govern different types of sensory and motor processing
  • How learning and memory shape behaviour; molecular and cellular bases of these phenomena
  • How experience shapes development of neural circuits within the brain
  • Adaptive nature of behaviour
  • conomics of individual behaviour
  • How ecology shapes behaviour: predator-prey relationships, competition for resources
  • Reasons for living in groups
  • How sexual competition drives behaviour
  • Current theories explaining parental care and family conflict; how altruistic and cooperative behaviours can evolve


  • 30 one-hour lectures
  • 18 hours of practicals
  • 4 one-hour tutorials


  • Practicals (30%)
  • Exam, 3 hours (70%)