MSc Neuroscience header image

MSc Neuroscience

at The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London

Programme structure

Full-time
Part-time

The programme structure and the modules that were offered in 2016-2017 are illustrated in the following table (the terms refer to the full-time programme only). The choice of modules means that there are a number of pathways students can follow. Depending on the MSc pathway chosen, the degree awarded will be either an MSc in Neuroscience or an MSc in Neuroscience in one of the specialities listed in the table below (for further information click on the relevant module).  Note that the B2 Addiction biology module is not running and the Brain Networks and Connectivity (B6) is now included in the B5 Neuroimaging module).

First term
(mid-September - end November)
Second term
(February)
Third term
(end March/early April - end August)
3 Compulsory
Taught Modules
(each 30 credits)
Optional Taught Modules
(30 credits)
Research Modules
(60 credits)
 
B Neuroscience research
(for part-time students only - see below)

This is one of several taught optional modules and aims to extend the breadth of knowledge gained from the compulsory modules (Modules A1, A2 and A3 in Fundamental Neuroscience). It will be delivered to part-time students either who are either not able to attend the specialised modules that will be delivered to the full-time students over 5 days per week or who do not wish to specialise in a particular field. The lectures will be taken from those covered in the specialised modules, i.e., B1 Psychiatric Genetics, B3 Developmental Neurobiology, B4 Neurodegeneration, B5 Neuroimaging, B6 Brain Networks and Tractography, B7 Cognitive Neuroscience and B8 Neural stem cells and nervous system repair. It will also expand on some other subjects presented in the Fundamental modules, e.g. in Neuroimmunology.
The module aims to extend the students’ knowledge of current research across the above subject areas, with a bias towards clinical applications to redress the basic bias of the fundamental modules. The module will also provide the opportunity for tutorials, seminars and student presentations, to enhance their ability to critically appraise the existing neuroscience literature. Because the lectures are research–rich, the module also aims to enable students to make a more informed choice of research project.

 

C Neuroscience
research project
 
B1 Psychiatric Genetics research

The module in Psychiatric Genetics will be principally taught by the Department of Neuroscience and the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre, a department recognised as a world leader in the field of behavioural genetics research. The module is one of several taught modules on the MSc Neuroscience and will further develop the students’ understanding of genetic approaches to psychiatric disorders gained from the compulsory modules in fundamental neuroscience (especially modules A2 and A3). The module will cover the latest genetic research applied to a range of disorders including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders (ASD), major depression and related phenotypes such as cognitive ability. It will help students understand the principles of a range of genetic research methods, preparing them for a successful MSc research project in this area. The module will also include dedicated lectures on quantitative genetics, epigenetics, gene-environment interaction and the investigation of genetic risk factors for psychiatric illness at the molecular, cellular and neurophysiological levels. These lectures will be supported by tutorials on genetic variation, statistical methods and the interpretation of scientific papers in the field.
The aim of the module is to develop the students’ knowledge and understanding of the various strands of research related to psychiatric genetics and an ability to interpret the literature. Students completing this module will have the option of combining this with a Module C1 Research Project in Psychiatric Genetics to allow them to further specialise in this area. Alternatively, students may wish to choose a research project in a different subject area leading to an understanding of research activities in two neuroscience fields.

C1 Research project in
Psychiatric Genetics
A1 Fundamental Neuroscience
Sections

This module is the first of the three compulsory modules that together aim to introduce you to subject areas that are considered fundamental to an MSc in Neuroscience and to enable you to decide which aspects of neuroscience you wish to specialise in after graduating and hence, inform your choice of specialised module and research project. The introductions are considered to be necessary because undergraduate degrees rarely cover the range of disciplines encountered in neuroscience research. This module introduces you to some fundamental aspects of neuroanatomy/neuropathology and to events occurring at the celluar subcellular level. The section on neuroanatomy is supplemented by a visit to the brain bank. These are:

A1.1 Neuroanatomy and neuropathology
A1.2 Cell biology
A1.3 Neurotransmission
A1.4 Cell signalling

B3 Developmental Neurobiology research

Understanding how the nervous system develops is one of the most fundamental and most exciting challenges in biology. As in other tissues, there is a diversity of cell types but what makes the nervous system work is the pattern of interconnections between these cell types.
This module examines how intrinsic and extrinsic cues lead to the development of functional circuits that allow the nervous system to adapt to a changing environment. A particular feature of the module is that it will expose the student to key areas of research in the field. Not only will it allow them to understand how research questions are generated and then investigated experimentally, but it will also ask what questions remain to be answered.
In the course of the module, students will learn about the specification of the nervous system that first arises in the embryo and then the progressive patterning of the embryonic brain and spinal cord. The control of neurogenesis and neuronal migration is crucial to normal development and the students will be introduced to different model systems. Central to the formation of functional circuits is the guidance of growth cones to their targets. The students will be able to discuss the diversity of guidance mechanisms and of associated signaling processes: is current research providing any generalising principles. Having reached the appropriate targets, the correct circuits have to be established. The students will be able to explore the cues driving this from the level of the synapse to the cortical column. Finally, the students will evaluate the therapeutic importance of the field from neuro-developmental disorders to the stem cell rescue of damaged circuits. The strong emphasis on current research in the field will enable the students to understand how complex problems of development and of neurobiology can be dissected into answerable questions

C3 Research project in
Developmental Neurobiology
A2 Fundamental Neuroscience
Sections

This module is the second of the three compulsory modules that together aim to introduce you to subject areas that are considered fundamental to an MSc in Neuroscience and to enable you to decide which aspects of neuroscience you wish to specialise in after graduating and hence, inform your choice of specialised module and research project. The introductions are considered to be necessary because undergraduate degrees rarely cover the range of disciplines (e.g. in physiology, biochemistry, or genetics, etc) encountered in neuroscience research.
Module A1 introduced you to some fundamental aspects of neuroanatomy/neuropathology and cell functioning/signalling. This module, A2, will take this to the next level of complexity and will cover multi-cellular systems. These are:

A2.1 Neurogenetics
A2.2 Developmental neurobiology
A2.3 Neuronal plasticity
A2.4 Neuroimmunology

B4 Neurodegeneration
research

The increasing lifespan of humans is resulting in a dramatic rise in the number of individuals affected by neurodegenerative diseases, the most prominent of these being Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, it is of crucial importance to understand the pathogenic processes involved in order to develop effective therapies to patients. This specialised module will provide the students with advanced knowledge on current understanding of neurodegenerative mechanisms, allowing them to undertake basic or clinical research projects or to work towards the discovery and development of novel drugs to treat these debilitating conditions.
Students will gain a clinical and pathological overview of common disorders, such as dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron disease, but also less common disorders, such as prion diseases. The genetic influences and risk factors associated with the development of neurodegeneration will be reviewed. The focus of the module will then move to understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in the onset and progression of neurodegenerative disease. Students will be introduced to model systems for investigating relevant disease processes and in which to trial prospective new drugs when they become available.
Teaching in this module is undertaken by lecturers actively involved in the research areas covered by this module and working primarily within the MRC Centre for Neurodegeneration Research at King’s College London, ensuring that students will be made aware of the most recent developments in the field. The neurodegeneration specialised module is suitable for all students registered for the MSc Neuroscience, regardless of their prior experience in this area.

C4 Research project in
Neurodegeneration
A3 Fundamental Neuroscience
Sections

This is the last of the three compulsory modules that together aim to introduce you to subject areas that are considered fundamental to an MSc in Neuroscience and to enable you to decide which aspects of neuroscience you wish to specialise in after graduating and hence, inform your choice of specialised module and research project. Modules A1 and A2 have covered neuroanatomy, cellular/subcellular events and more complex multi-unit functioning systems. This module moves to the whole organism and considers how systems such as pain and vision process information. It also looks at the social and genetic mechanisms predisposing individuals to addictions and then the genetic factors, and molecular mechanisms underlying psychiatric, psychological and neurodegenerative diseases/disorders and the important role of neuroimaging in furthering understanding.A3.1 Systems neuroscience
A3.2 Addiction biology
A3.3 Neuropsychology of mental health
A3.4 Neuroimaging
A3.5 Neurodegeneration

B5 Neuroimaging
research

The advent of neuroimaging over the last 40 years has revolutionized clinical practice and had a huge impact on research in the fields of psychiatry, psychology, neurology, neuroscience and beyond. Clinical neuroimaging systems are mirrored by smaller scale pre-clinical systems allowing the same techniques to be applied in both fields. Students will start the module learning about the range of neuroimaging acquisition and analysis techniques available and the basic concepts of neuroimaging, building on the neuroimaging lectures in the fundamental module, A3. The wide range of neuroimaging modalities will be covered including X-ray computerised tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Single Photon Emission Tomography (SPET), Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Electroencephalography (EEG) and Magneto­encephalography (MEG).
Image processing and analysis has been key to the establishment of neuroimaging techniques for research and clinical purposes and students will be taught about the classical and cutting edge techniques that are used to explore and evaluate both structure and function. Finally the application of neuroimaging techniques to a wide range of neurological and psychiatric conditions will be considered using a common framework to guide the student as to both the clinical and research applications of neuroimaging within the field of neuroscience. Students participating in the module will also have tailored preparation for neuroimaging MSc projects.

C5 Research project in
Neuroimaging
 
B7 Cognitive Neuroscience
research

Cognitive Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary study of cognition and behaviour. It encompasses several branches of science including cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, neuroscience, psychophysics, neuroimaging and genetics to provide brain-based accounts of cognitive functions such as perception, memory, language and fear-learning. For example, cognitive neuroscience helps to understand why some people are easily distracted, have difficulty in learning and remembering new information, or are unable to avoid danger.
This module is designed to reflect the vibrancy in the field. It will first provide an overview of the methods used to delineate neuroanatomy of the brain and its numerous functions in health and disease. Students will then be introduced to relevant theoretical concepts and exciting new evidence on neuroscience of various cognitive domains, cognitive development across the life span, and cognitive recovery and rehabilitation after brain damage.
Further lectures will focus on the effects of sex, drugs, genes and personality in cognition and the neural basis of these effects. The course will also cover the neuroscience of social cognition which includes our ability to recognise emotions and think about them from another person’s perspective.
Most of this module’s lectures will be given by senior academic staff members who have been actively involved in cognitive neuroscience research for many years. This specialised module is most suited to those with a background in Psychology, Psychiatry or Neurology, although it can be taken by any student registered on the course who is interested and wishes to pursue a career in this area.

C7 Research project in
Cognitive Neuroscience
 
B8 Neural stem cells and nervous system repair research

The module in Neural stem cells and nervous system repair will be principally taught by the Department of Basic and Clinical Neuroscience and the Wolfson Centre for Age Related Diseases (CARD). The module is one of several taught modules on the MSc Neuroscience and aims to further develop the students’ understanding of the role of stem cells in the nervous system gained from the compulsory modules in fundamental neuroscience.
The module aims to provide students with the latest knowledge on (i) fundamental stem cell research and (ii) translational research applied to a range of neurological disorders. The module will provide a specialised knowledge to the students for the use of neural stem cells as (i) research tools (such as induced pluripotent stem cells to model neurological disorders) but also as (ii) potential regenerative methods (such as stem cells transplantation).
The module aims also to broaden the knowledge of the students on the peripheral nervous system repair and central nervous system regeneration. In addition, the module aims to give an epigenetic and an imaging approach of the topic to the students.
Finally, the lectures in this module will be supported and complemented by tutorials on abstract writing, interpretation of scientific papers in the field and discussions on ethical use of stem cells for research and regenerative medicine in order to develop in the students a critical appraisal to published research and to their own future research project.
All together, the aim of the module is to develop the students’ knowledge and understanding of the various strands of research methods related to neural stem cells and nervous system repair and an ability to interpret the literature. Students completing this module will be well prepared to take on a research project in this area and will have the option of combining this with a Module C8 Research Project in Neural stem cells and nervous system repair to allow them to further specialise in this area.Alternatively, students may wish to choose a research project in a different subject area leading to an understanding of research activities in two neuroscience fields.

C8 Research project in
Neural stem cells and
nervous system repair

 

To be awarded a Masters degree (180 CCF credits) students will be required to successfully complete each of the following components of the programme:

  1. Three compulsory taught modules in Fundamental Neuroscience (3 x 30 credits)
  2. One of several optional taught modules (1 x 30 credits)
  3. One research project (1 x 60 credits)

Full-time
The full-time MSc programme runs for 12 months from mid-September to mid-September of the following year (see General timetable). The three compulsory Fundamental modules will be taught on Mondays through Thursdays until mid-November. This part of the programme is highly structured and consists of approximately eight weeks of didactic lectures. Each module consists of 4-5 sections, each section covering a different subject area within neuroscience. Students are expected to attend all lectures.

These lectures will be followed by formal revision sessions and tutorials for each of the subject areas before the written examinations take place towards the end of October/early November for A1 before the end of January for A2 and A3  There are also three coursework essays, of 2000 words each, to be completed during the period between the end of the teaching the fundamental modules and the beginning of the optional modules (see the General timetable for details). After the written examinations, students begin their research projects (approximately 20 weeks).  In order to provide maximum choice, each student chooses their preferred projects from a list of available projects (this is a list of recent project titles).
Students are required to submit a project report of between 7,500 and 10,000 words and to present a poster of their project that is examined. Students have to be available at this time to answer questions about their projects from members of the Board of Examiners.
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Part-time

The part-time programme is conducted on a day-release basis (currently on Fridays) and lasts for two years. Enrolment takes place in even-numbered years only. The next intake will therefore be in September 2018. The current 2016-2018 session contains the same Fundamental modules and optional Neuroscience module as the full-time programme. The optional specialised modules (B1-B8) will not be taught separately to the part-time students but students will have the option to attend them when they are given to the full-time students on Mondays to Fridays during February. A specialised module on Further Neuroscience (module B) will be taught on Fridays for those students not able to attend lectures with the full-time students. The written assignments and examinations take place during the first and second year of the programme. The submission date for the research project report and the presentation for the research project poster will be the same as for the completing full-time students.
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