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Module titleNeuroimmunology
Module codeNEU3030
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Talitha Kerrigan (Convenor)

Dr Jo Seale (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The brain’s immune response differs to that of other organs, primarily due to the presence of the blood-brain barrier and brain cells called glia. These responses are fine-tuned by signals from peripheral immune cells and, more speculatively, influenced by the gut microbiome. Central immune responses are important for maintaining normal brain function, but may go awry in neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression. The immune responses also support the brain’s recovery from injuries such as those arising from trauma, oxygen deprivation and infection.

This module will explore the current understanding of how peripheral and central immune systems interact to affect operation of the nervous system, paying particular attention to pathogenic mechanisms. It will focus particularly on the diverse role played by glia.

NEU1006 Introduction to Neuroscience (formerly CSC1006) and/or CSC2012 Disease, Diagnostics and Therapeutics are pre-requisite for this module. NEU2018 Neural Circuits (formerly CSC2018) is recommended. This module is optional for students studying BSc Neuroscience and BSc Medical Sciences. Students in other disciplines may take the module if they meet the pre-requisites.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The overall aim of the module is to recognise the role of central immune responses in normal brain functioning, and in the development and progression of disease.

Through lectures, journal clubs, and written assignments you will have opportunities to understand central immune responses to infections and trauma of the brain, and how these responses contribute to neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases. You will appreciate the role of non-neuronal cells found in the brain: astrocytes, microglia, and oligodendrocytes. Key aspects of the associated signalling we explore may include chemokine, cannabinoid, and trace amine-associated receptors.

Overall, this module will enhance your transferrable skills by helping to develop your strengths in:

1. Data analysis and Interpretation
You will consider the logic of scientific inference and principles of statistical analysis. You will further develop the skills needed to understand and interpret scientific data by analysing existing data sets, and through the manipulation of new data acquired through supervised laboratory sessions.

2. Applied Research Techniques
You will become familiar with techniques widely used in neuroscience, neurology, and immunology to study brain inflammation. Specific examples will include immunohistochemistry, animal models, pharmacological manipulations of glia cells, electrophysiology and current methods of neuroimaging. You will also have the opportunity to apply some of these techniques directly through journal club sessions with leading research scientists in the field of Neuroimmunology.

3. Critical Appraisal.
Through formative and summative assessments, you will develop your ability to identify, review and appraise scientific literature whilst working as part of the group.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Identify key components of the central immune system and outline their functional significance
  • 2. Appreciate cellular and molecular differences between types of brain glial cells, outlining their role in normal and abnormal brain function
  • 3. Describe some of the mechanisms through which peripheral immune cells and the gut microbiome can influence brain immune responses
  • 4. Explain key cellular and molecular events which occur in the brain immune system following injury
  • 5. Evaluate the role of immune responses in the pathophysiology of neurodevelopmental, neurodegenerative, and neuropsychiatric diseases
  • 6. Characterise the role of gut microbiota and diet in driving the brain immune response
  • 7. Articulate the importance of immune response for brain repair

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 8. Critically evaluate the latest primary research in Neuroimmunology, demonstrating an appropriate knowledge of the underlying research methodology.
  • 9. Describe some of the methods used to study central immune responses
  • 10. Analyse and interpret histological and electrophysiological data

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 11. Carry out a targeted literature searches using bibliographic databases
  • 12. Critically evaluate primary and secondary sources of information
  • 13. Interact effectively in a group
  • 14. Recognise and produce clear scientific writing
  • 15. Apply skills of critical thinking, problem-formulation and problem-solving to clinical science practice.
  • 16. Apply appropriate statistical analyses to different types of numerical data

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The module’s precise content will vary from year to year, but the following information describes its typical structure.


A total of ten lecture sessions will be delivered via online pre-recorded videos, incorporating different Neuroimmunology themes. Each week will consist of a one-hour online pre-recorded lecture, followed by a 2-hour interactive journal club session, facilitated by a specialist academic in the field.

Lectures may broadly cover the following subjects:
• Glial cells: cellular and molecular differences, regulation of neuronal communication, biology, techniques used to study them
• Central immune response to physical damage: traumatic brain injury and repair mechanisms
• Central immune response in brain development
• Central immune response in metabolic disease (diabetes, obesity): mechanisms, contribution to disease pathology and aetiology
• Gut-brain axis in health and disease (degenerative and mood disorders)
• CNS Autoimmunity (multiple sclerosis): mechanisms, contribution to disease pathology and aetiology
• Psychoneuroimmunology: seasonal rhythms, well-being, aging, emotions and immunity
• Central immune response in neurodegeneration: Dementia disorders, mechanisms, contribution to disease pathology and aetiology.
• Therapeutic options and visualising the brain

The introductory lecture (week 1) will outline the broad aims of the module, its weekly structure, assessment processes and other practicalities. You will also have a workshop which will focus on the module’s assessment: writing a research project proposal.
In the final week of the module there will be a one hour session providing you with details on the exam and preparation support.

Along with the journal club sessions; these interactive workshop sessions will take place live, in person or online via a streaming platform e.g. Microsoft Teams

Journal club sessions

There will be ten journal club sessions where you will explore the latest research techniques used in the field of neuroimmunology by discussing a primary research paper relating to the topic covered by an academic specialist. These two-hour sessions will incorporate an introduction to the paper and methods used at the beginning of each session, followed by a Q&A discussion.. In these you will cover the past, present and future research techniques used in more detail. You will interpret and analyse the expected outcome of key Neuroimmunology methods such as immunohistochemistry, morphology of glial cells and electrophysiological techniques. This will prepare you for your summative coursework and data interpretation exam.


There will be three seminars, each an hour and a half hour long, which will help you to prepare your assessed research proposal. You will be provided with suggested topics prior the first seminar and will be expected to prepare for the session. At the first seminar you will work in groups discussing material you found and further shaping your proposal. The suggested topics will be broad enough that you will be able to identify, in more detail, material of interest to you and at the same time, share your knowledge with others in the groups. In another seminar you will discuss study plan design and share your ideas with the group and progress on shaping your proposal.

During the second seminar you will be given feedback on the 1-page proposal you individually prepared ahead of the session. The feedback will be provided by both the peer group and the tutor and discussed at the seminar. During this session you will also have an opportunity to clarify any questions related to the assignment.

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 & Teaching 2Introductory and wrap lecture (2 x 1hr)
Scheduled Learning & Teaching 20Interactive journal club sessions (10 x 2hrs)
Scheduled Learning & Teaching 4.5Research proposal seminars (3 x 1.5hrs)
Scheduled Learning & Teaching 2Research Proposal workshop (1 x 2 hrs)
Guided Independent Study10Lectures (10 x 1hr pre-recorded online videos)
Guided Independent Study9Lecture preparation
Guided Independent Study9Lecture review and reflection
Guided Independent Study20Write-up of 1 page proposal
Guided Independent Study20Seminar preparation
Guided Independent Study10Seminar sessions review and reflection
Guided Independent Study20Revision
Guided Independent Study23.5Wider reading & preparation of written assessment


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Proposal write up500 words1-2, 9-10, 13-14, 16Written
Online multiple-choice questions progression test (MCQs)3-5 questions/lecture1-10,15-16Online model answers
Online practice short-answer (SAQs) questions and data handling questions5 SAQs and 1 data handling question online per theme1-10, 15-16Online 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
SAQ and data interpretation exam 602 hour1-10, 15-16Written (on request)
Research proposal402000 words1-8, 11-15Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
SAQs and data interpretation exam (60%), 2 hours SAQs and data interpretation exam (2-hours)1-10, 15-16Ref/Def period
Research proposal (40%), 2000 wordsResearch proposal (2,000)1-8, 11-15Ref/Def period

Re-assessment notes

Please also refer to the TQA section on Referral/Deferral:   


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading

1. Human Physiology: From Cells to Systems, 7th edition, edited by Lauralee Sherwood. Cengage, 2009.
Chapter 5: The central Nervous system – most important parts are on Organisation and Cells of the Nervous system (5.1) and Protection and Nourishment of the brain (5.2)
2. Understanding immunology, 3d edition, edited by Peter Wood. Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011
Chapter 2: Innate Immunity and the inflammatory response

Module specific reading

1. Neuroglia, 3d edition, edited by Helmut Kettenmann and Bruce R. Ransom. Oxford Academic Press, 2013
Chapters related to astrocyte and microglia biology and function in health and disease (2, 5-6, 8, 11, 22-30, 33, 35-37, 39-41, 44-45, 47)
2. Neuroinflammation, 2nd edition, edited by Alireza Minagar. Academic Press, 2018
Chapters highlighting the role of glia cells in neuroinflammation (26), multiple sclerosis (1-3, 5, 25, 27), ischemic (18, 19) and traumatic brain injury (28), and Alzheimer’s disease (27), and modern treatment strategies of various neuroinflammatory conditions (20, 21).

3. The Oxford Handbook of Psychoneuroimmunology, edited by Suzanne C. Segerstrom, Oxford University Press, 2012. Chapters highlighting the following: Stress and Immunity in Pregnancy, Well-Being, Aging, and Immunity, Positive Emotions and Immunity and Seasonal Rhythms in Psychoneuroimmunology.
DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195394399.001.0001

All the recommended books are available as an e-resource at the University of Exeter Library. Other resources on specific topics might be recommended by the lecturers and will be added to ELE webpage and included as recommended reading material at the end of each lecture.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Brain, immunology, glia, immune response, gut microbiome, neuroscience, Alzheimer’s  disease, depression

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

NEU1006 or CSC1006 or CSC2012

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date