Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health Professions


Frontiers in Neuroscience

Module titleFrontiers in Neuroscience
Module codeCSC4008
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Professor Katie Lunnon (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module focuses on the neurobiology of disorders of the nervous system. Specifically, the module explores the ways in which recent research has answered questions about the operation of the nervous system, yet also posed new questions. In particular the module highlights the potential for further progress in deciphering and repairing neural circuitry by considering some of the reasons effective treatments for many neural disorders remain elusive. 

The module focuses on eight important disorders of the nervous system, utilising these to understand both pathology and normal physiology. The course is delivered by leading experts working in each of these disorders and will allow you to work with these researchers to identify key outstanding questions in neuroscience and formulate a literature review to investigate your chosen disease area. This module will equip you with the theoretical, analytical and methodological skills necessary for postgraduate work or study in industrial or academic environments. 

This is a compulsory module for final year students of the BSc Medical Sciences (Neuroscience) pathway or BSc Neuroscience Programme. A pre-requisite for this module is either “Introduction to Neuroscience” (CSC1006) in Year 1 or “Foundations in Neuroscience” (CSC2006) in Year 2. However, in exceptional circumstances where you can demonstrate sufficient background knowledge you may be permitted to take “Frontiers in Neuroscience” (CSC4008) without these prerequisites, but only after discussion and agreement with the module lead in advance of module selection. This module is not suitable for non-specialist students.

Module aims - intentions of the module

Through a critical exploration of primary literature you will develop an understanding of the normal physiology of the nervous system and how this goes awry in a range of neurological disorders. You will understand how these neurological disturbances may be treated by current therapies and through an appreciation of the latest discoveries and cutting edge technologies consider what the future may hold for improved and novel treatments. Learning the limitations of investigative approaches in light of the complexity of the nervous system will enable you to understand the key challenges facing neuroscience and the value of an interdisciplinary approach. Critically assessing these issues will provide the basis for the generation of a relevant research hypothesis which you will be able to justify in terms of relevance to human health and the appropriate tools required.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Appreciate, and be able to outline, some conceptual milestones in the history of neuroscience.
  • 2. Describe the key clinical symptoms and prognosis for eight specific disorders of the nervous system.
  • 3. Describe the cellular pathology of a range of disorders of the nervous system.
  • 4. Describe the molecular pathology of a range of disorders of the nervous system.
  • 5. Explain the wider aetiology of nervous system disorders and the therapeutic options available.
  • 6. Review and discuss the current limitations and uncertainties in the diagnosis and treatment of the neurological diseases covered.
  • 7. Critique recent and emerging priorities for research in Neuroscience.
  • 8. Indentify the question that Neuroscience research should prioritise answering within the next ten years.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 9. Discuss how the challenges in data collection faced in Neuroscience are being tackled.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 10. Apply critical thinking to the analysis of arguments and the evaluation of evidence.
  • 11. Communicate effectively with a variety of audiences.
  • 12. Produce clear scientific writing.
  • 13. Demonstrate effective oral presentation and explanation of results.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The main component of the module is a series of two-week blocks focussed on different diseases, which are led by researchers at the University specialising in these diseases. Subsequently, you will undertake a literature review focused on a disorder of their choice.

Whilst the module's precise content may vary from year to year, an example of an overall structure is as follows:


Term 1, Weeks 1-2:


  • Introduction to the course and a re-cap of the principles introduced in Foundations of Neuroscience, CSC2006. This is in the format of a 2 hour lecture with staff that delivered the foundations module.
  • Introduction to key concepts and terminology used in Frontiers in Neuroscience. This is in the format of a 2 hour lecture.


Term 1, Weeks 3-12 and Term 2, Weeks 1-6:


Over a series of two-week blocks you will investigate eight different disorders of the nervous system. These will likely comprise the following, though the topics and their order may change depending on the availability of staff:


  • Topic 1: Autism
  • Topic 2: Schizophrenia
  • Topic 3: Alzheimer’s disease
  • Topic 4: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Topic 5: Parkinson’s disease
  • Topic 6: Channelopathies
  • Topic 7: Depression
  • Topic 8: Prion diseases


Within each two week block you will have three contact sessions:


  • At the start of each topic, lecture slides, journal club paper and tutorial questions, set by your expert lecturer, will be released on ELE.


  • In the first week you will have a 2 hour lecture, which begins by giving a broad introduction to the condition, its prognosis and typical treatment. The second part of the lecture considers in detail one aspect of current research related to the condition.  


  • Later in the first week you will attend a journal club, which will cover a paper set by the lecturer. Students will be divided into groups of up to 12 and assigned a neuroscience researcher at the University of Exeter, as a mentor. Within the journal club you will work together with the mentor to discuss a current paper aligned to the disorder being studied. The paper will be chosen to enhance your knowledge, and is not simply a repetition of the lecture content. For example, this might focus on a key or controversial issue.


  • In the second week you will attend a tutorial session, run by your facilitator, and present your findings from your SDL.


Term 2, Weeks 7-10:


At the end of the eight topics you will research one topic further by undertaking a literature review under the supervision of the topic’s expert lecturer.


You will sign-up for these topics using ELE and will be able to rank the different topics by preference. We will aim to assign everyone to one of their top 3 ranked choices, wherever possible.


You can meet with the expert lecturer during timetabled drop-in sessions, which will usually be held in week 7 and week 9 to discuss the direction of your literature review.


End of Term 2:


At the end of term 2 we will hold a workshop to prepare you for the examination. During the session we will run through previous exam papers and discuss how best to answer the questions. 


As part of Project Enhance, we have increased the contact time for this module by approximately 15% for the 2020/21 academic year 




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 Teaching Activities22 Lectures (11 x 2 hour); delivered online as a series of short-videos
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities8Question and answer session for each content-bloc (8 x 1 hour)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities16 Journal Club (8 x 2 hour)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities16Tutorials (8 x 2 hour)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities 4Literature Review - Supervisor Meetings (2 x 2 hour)
Guided Independent Study54Preparation for Lectures, Exams and Wider Reading
Guided Independent Study48Preparation for Journal Club (Read Paper and Preparation of Lay Abstract)
Guided Independent Study40Preparation for Tutorials
Guided Independent Study92Extended Literature Review


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Lay Abstract for Journal ClubsPeer Marking1-7,9,11,13Oral and Written

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
Essay Exam452.5 hours, completed in a 24 hour window1-6, 9-13Written (on request)
Engagement with Journal clubs 5N/A1-11, 13Written
Engagement with tutorials 5N/A1-13Written
Extended Literature Review453000 words1-10,12Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay Exam 2.5 hours, completed in a 24 hour window1-6, 9-13Ref/def period
Engagement with Journal Clubs 300 word lay abstract for each session missed (10%) 1-11, 13Ref/def period
Engagement with Tutorials Submitting answered tutorial questions (3 from each topic missed) (10%)1-12Ref/def period
Extended Literature Review Extended Literature Review (3000 words) (40%)1-10,12Ref/def period

Re-assessment notes

Please refer to the TQA section on Referral/Deferral:


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading




  • ‘Principles of neural science’, eds. Kandel, Schwartz, Jessell
  • ‘Pharmacology’, eds. Rang, Dale, Ritter




Specific reading for each topic will be made available on ELE.



Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Browne, M, Keeley, S (2006) Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking
  • Gowers, E Greenburn S, Whitcut J (2004) The Complete Plain Words
  • Okasha, S (2004) Philosophy of Science: A very short introduction
  • Trask, R (2004) The Penguin Guide to Punctuation
  • Weston A (2009) Rulebook for Arguments


Key words search

Neuroscience, brain, neurodegeneration, anatomy, synapse, neurotransmitter, disease, disorder.

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

Either “Introduction to Neuroscience” (CSC1006) or “Foundations in Neuroscience” (CSC2006). However, in exceptional circumstances where a students can demonstrate sufficient background knowledge they may be permitted to take “Frontiers in Neuroscience” (CSC4008) without these prerequisites, but only after discussion and agreement with the module lead in advance of module selection. This module is not suitable for non-specialist students. 

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date