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MMB8010 : The Biological Basis of Psychiatric Illness & Its Treatment

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Sasha Gartside
  • Co-Module Leader: Dr Tiago da Silva Costa
  • Lecturer: Dr Jennifer Burgess, Professor Hamish McAllister-Williams, Professor Richard McQuade, Dr David Cousins, Dr Abhishek Banerjee, Dr Peter Gallagher, Dr Stuart Watson, Dr Fiona LeBeau
  • Owning School: Biomedical, Nutritional and Sports Scien
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


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 completion110:0010:00Completion of summative assessment 1
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture141:0014:00Present in person (PIP) lecture sessions
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion122:0022:00Completion of summative assessment 2
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities81:008:00Non-sync online: Weekly quiz on lecture materials plus additional reading (formative practice)
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities126:0026:00Preparation for workshops - reading set materials
Guided Independent StudySkills practice124:0024:00Practice skills learnt in workshops
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops32:006:00Present in person (PIP); Students work in small groups to complete task & present to rest of cohort
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity160:0060:00Additional reading and reflective learning, participation in group online non-synchronous discussion
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery11:301:30Present in person (PIP)
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study128:0028:00Revision of lecture materials
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk10:300:30Present in person (PIP): introduction from Module Leader
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 and critiquing published papers. Specific skills: preparing an abstract, considering the context of a piece of research and its contribution to the field. 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 lecture materials and workshops.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M30Abstract writing testing critical appraisal and summarizing skills: 250 words
Written exercise1M70Essay focused on methodological approaches: choice of 3 titles: 2000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessment will have two components: a) an in-course abstract writing test to examine understanding and interpretation, and summarizing skills; b) an essay set at the end of the formal lectures, testing students' knowledge and understanding of particular approaches to research and how they have advanced our knowledge in the field of biological psychiatry.

Formative practice, in the form of a weekly MCQ Quiz on canvas, will test understanding of lecture material.

Reading Lists