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MMB8010 : The Biological Basis of Psychiatric Illness & Its Treatment

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Sasha Gartside
  • Lecturer: Dr Stuart Watson, Dr Fiona LeBeau, Dr Jennifer Burgess, Professor Hamish McAllister-Williams, Dr Richard McQuade, Dr David Cousins, Dr Peter Gallagher
  • Owning School: FMS Graduate School
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The module aims are to:

•       provide the students with an introduction to the nature of psychiatric illness, the various biological abnormalities hypothesized to underlie psychiatric illness, and the proposed mechanism of action of pharmacological treatments.

•       introduce the students to some of the challenges of studying the biological basis of psychiatric illness and the methods used in patient populations, healthy volunteers and experimental animals.

•       develop critical appraisal skills of students as applied to the published literature related to the biological basis of psychiatric illnesses

Outline Of Syllabus

The module consists primarily of lectures given by experts in the research areas covered. The module also includes the first four lectures/practicals in MMB8020 (not included in the syllabus below) which provide revision and background for all of the modules in the Neuroscience strand of the MRes.

The specialized content of the module begins with lectures introducing psychiatric illness and the major biological hypotheses to explain psychiatric illnesses. These are followed by focused topics (monoamines and mood disorders; HPA axis and mood disorders; glutamate & schizophrenia; cognition in psychiatric illness). For each topic there will be an exploration of the methodologies and approaches that scientists and clinicians use to develop and examine hypotheses about the biological underpinnings of psychiatric illnesses.

The module also includes three workshops designed to help students develop the skills for critical appraisal of scientific literature in the research area and to prepare for the assessments.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion501:0050:00Reading and preparation for in-course MCQ
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion501:0050:00Revision for examination
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture141:0014:00Lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops81:008:00Workshops
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity281:0028:00Additional reading and reflective learning
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study501:0050:00Preparing notes from lectures and reading
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

This module will be a mixture of didactic and workshop teaching. In lectures, students will learn about some of the major findings related to the biological basis of psychiatric illnesses and the approaches to research in this field. They will also learn how to evaluate and interpret current research reports, and they will learn how to integrate new results -- which are accumulating rapidly in this fast-moving field of neuroscience -- into basic knowledge frameworks. Analytical and critical appraisal skills will be explored and developed in a series of workshops focused around interpreting published papers, preparing abstracts summarizing data and considering the next appropriate research steps. In addition to the formal teaching, the students will be expected to spend the remainder of the 200 student hours in self-directed learning following the guides identified in the lectures, seminar and practical.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination901A60Critical appraisal and short answer questions of a choice of 1 from 3 research papers
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M20MCQ covers taught material plus further reading
Written exercise1M20Abstract writing testing critical appraisal and summarising skills
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The in-course assessment will have two components: a)an MCQ testing acquired knowledge from the taught elements of the module. Questions will also extend beyond the core taught material to test the students' ability to learn outside of the classroom but building upon basic information provided in the course b) an abstract writing test to examine understanding and interpretation, and summarising skills.

The exam, set at the end of the formal lectures, tests students' ability to summarise and critically appraise a published research paper and to plan a research study. This tests integrated knowledge from the module as a whole, including methodological issues and study design.

Reading Lists