Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health Professions



Module titleNeuropharmacology
Module codeNEU2019
Academic year2021/2
Module staff

Dr Tom Ridler ()

Dr Miguel Dasilva Ogando ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The nervous system is central to the regulation of all aspects of physiology and behaviour. In this module you will learn how altering nervous system signalling using drugs leads to changes in physiology and behaviour with beneficial or detrimental consequences for human healthYou will investigate why some substances historically used as therapeutics have been co-opted for recreational use and will start to consider some of the associated complexities  

NEU1006 Introduction to Neuroscience (formerly CSC1006is a pre-requisite for this module. This module is mandatory for students studying BSc Neuroscience, and optional for other BSc Medical Sciences pathways. Students in other disciplines may take the module if they meet the pre-requisites. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

Illustrated using examples of well-known neuroactive substances such as cannabis, nicotine, and amphetamine, you will learn about the complexities of drug-action in the Central Nervous System (CNS). Through a combination of lectures and workshops you will begin to understand the molecular basis underlying the modulation of CNS signalling by drugs.You will also learn about how advances in basic research are driving the development of novel therapeutics for CNS disorders. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Identify the different pharmacological modes of action of ligands in the CNS
  • 2. Distinguish between the principal types of ligand-effector interactions that affect neural activity, providing examples of each.
  • 3. Identify the classes of receptors in the CNS, differentiating the different modes of downstream signalling and recognising the relative timescales of each
  • 4. Recognise the complexities of neural signalling in the CNS and give examples of how ligands may act on different neural pathways to regulate physiology and behaviour
  • 5. Distinguish between neurotransmitters and neuromodulators, demonstrating understanding of the functional difference between the two
  • 6. Compare the relative modes of action of different commonly used recreational drugs
  • 7. Explain the principal challenges associated with designing drugs that act in the CNS to modulate physiology and behaviour
  • 8. Evaluate the latest primary research in neuropharmacology, demonstrating an in-depth knowledge of the underlying research methodology.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 9. Explain the principles of good experimental design and data communication
  • 10. Evaluate the specific challenges in data collection within the discipline of neuropharmacology research

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 11. Evaluate primary sources of information.
  • 12. Produce clear scientific writing.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The module’s precise content will vary from year to year, but the following information gives a description of the typical structure:  

The module begins with an introductory workshop in week 1 to outline the broad aims and structure of the module and introduce the assessments. In week 1, there will also be a session focused on skills for reading scientific literature and writing commentaries on research articles  

The next nine weeks are divided into three blocks. At the beginning of each block you will receive a lecture focused on methods in neuropharmacology. For the remaining lectures in each block different drugs exemplifying key neuropharmacological concepts will be introduced; background material will be presented, molecular targets and associated physiological and behavioural effects discussed. Examples of drugs that may be covered include: 

  • Ketamine 

  • Diazepam 

  • Cocaine 

  • Nitrous Oxide (Laughing gas) 

  • MDMA (Ecstasy) 

  • Cannabis 

  • Nicotine  

At the end of each three-week block you will have a two-hour workshop in groups. These sessions will be focused on learning to interpret data from the primary scientific research literature and applying the knowledge learned from the lectures to answering formative questions, which will help you prepare for the exam. 

In the final week of the module there is an exam information and preparation workshop. 

During the module you will write a scientific commentary article about a primary research paperThis article will form part of the module assessment. To help you prepare you will have interactive group tutorials with a specialist academic .  


Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1616 x 1-hour Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching63 x 2-hour Workshops
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22 x 1-hour Module information and wrap sessions
Scheduled Learning and Teaching33 x 1-hour workshop
Scheduled Learning and Teaching32 x 45 min and 1 x1.5 hour Scientific commentary assessment preparation tutorial
Guided Independent Study10Literature searches, reading and preparation for workshops.
Guided Independent Study20Preparation for assessed scientific commentary style summary of a primary research paper
Guided Independent Study90Reading and preparation for lectures and exam


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Participation in tutorial to discuss paper which is subject of the scientific commentary ” assessment 3 hours1-11Verbal
Practice MCQ, SAQ and data interpretation questions (in-class and online) 6 hours1-12Verbal feedback (in-class) and online model answers

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer question and data interpretation exam 402 hours1-11Written (on request)
Scientific commentary style summary of a primary research paper 601000 words1-12Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Short answer question and data interpretation exam (60%) Short answer question and data interpretation exam (2 hours) 1-11Ref/def period
Scientific commentary style summary of a primary research paper (40%) Scientific commentary style summary of a primary research paper (1000 words) 1-12Ref/def period

Re-assessment notes

Please refer to the TQA section on full guidance for Referral/Deferral: 


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

1. ‘From Neuron to Brain’ 5 th Edition (2012), Nicholls et al, ISBN: 978-0878936090 – For reference/ revision of material from Foundations in Neuroscience. Consult as needed

2. ‘Pharmacology’ 8 th Edition (2015), Rang et al, ISBN: 978-0702053627, Section 4: The Nervous System, Chapters 36-38, 40, 46-48

3. ‘Psychopharmacology: Drugs, the brain and behaviour’, 2nd Edition (2013), Meyer & Quenzer, ISBN:978-0878935109, Chapters 1-10, 11-16

4. ‘Drugs, addiction and the brain’, 1st Edition (2014), Koob, Arends & Le Moal, ISBN: 978-0123869371, Chapters 1-3, 9

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Brain, Pharmacology, Neuroscience

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

NEU1006 or CSC1006

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date