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MMB8019 : Sensory Systems

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Evelyne Sernagor
  • Lecturer: Professor Alexander Thiele, Professor Patrick Degenaar, Professor Adrian Rees, Dr Michael Firbank, Dr Gabriele Jordan, Professor Tim Griffiths, Professor Anya Hurlbert, Professor Marcus Kaiser, Professor Stuart Baker, Professor Andrew Blamire
  • Owning School: FMS Graduate School
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The module aims are:

1. introduce the principles and practice of modern methods (primarily neurophysiology, imaging, and computational techniques) for investigating sensory systems (vision, audition and somatosensation).

2. explore sensory physiology at an advanced level from single neuron function to complex neuronal networks in the visual, auditory and somatosensory systems.

3. gain an understanding of how basic experimental studies and clinical investigations reveal the neuronal mechanisms underlying function of sensory systems in health and disease.

4. acquire basic knowledge in neural implant devices to regain lost senses.

5. gain specific knowledge on:

• neuronal signalling mechanisms
• cellular neurophysiology
• invasive and non-invasive techniques for studying the nervous system in humans and experimental animals
• computational approaches for interpreting neural network function
• gross sensory neuroanatomy (in primates and simpler animals)
• development of neural function and structure
• genetics and neuroanatomy of specific sensory disorders and their relationship to normal brain function
• multisensory integration
• functional links between sensory systems, and disorders thereof
• higher brain functions that build on sensory function, such as visual memory and attention, reading, music perception.

6. learn how to acquire scientific knowledge through independent reading, deductive and inductive reasoning.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will introduce the principles and practice of modern methods (primarily neurophysiological, neuroimaging, and computational techniques) for investigating sensory systems including the visual, auditory and somatosensory systems, chemical senses through a series of lectures;

Lecture topic will include:

1. Introduction to Sensory Systems research

2. Essential neuroanatomy

3. Essential cellular neurophysiology

4. Neuroimaging techniques

5. Retinal structure and function

6. Visual system development

7. Colour vision (retinal processing, genetic disorders, central processing)

8. Visual cortical function (modularity, cognitive aspects, visual attention)

9. Neural prosthetics for the restoration of sight

10. Somatosensation (touch, pressure, vibration, pain, temperature, position and movement)

11. The auditory pathway

12. Auditory neurophysiology and neuropharmacology

13. Cortical basis and disorders of human auditory cognition

14. Multisensory integration

15. Computational approaches to understanding neuroanatomical networks and behaviour

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion12:002:00MCQ
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion140:0040:00Preparation of Presentation and Presentation
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:00Revision for Examinations
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture241:0024:00Lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical22:004:00Practicals including MCQ
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical13:003:00Practical
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity119:0019:00Additional Reading and Reflective Learning
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study150:0050:00Preparation of Notes from Lectures & Reading
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study18:008:00Additional Reading & Reflective learning
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Practicals will include:

1. Fundamental neuroanatomy - Gross anatomy of the human brain. Cellular staining techniques. Comparative neuroanatomy.

2. Spike train analysis – to analyse and quantify spiking activity in neural networks.

Students will also prepare 10-minute powerpoint presentations on in-depth topics related to the lectures, preferably based on one or more recent journal articles. Presentations will be assessed on content, organisation, style, and visual clarity.

To help consolidate factual information learned throughout the course, students will have a multiple-choice-question exam during the last session of the module. The MCQ exam mark will contribute 20% to the final mark. Only lecture material will be covered in the MCQ exam.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination601A60One question to be answered from three
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Computer assessment1M20MCQs
Prof skill assessmnt1M20Oral presentation
Assessment Rationale And Relationship


Reading Lists