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Brain and Behaviour

University of Warwick

Department of Psychology 2020/21

Module Code:


Module Name:

Brain and Behaviour

Module Credits (CATS):

24 CATS Psychology

30 CATS Philosophy with Psychology

30 CATS Psychology & GSD

Module Convener

Friederike Schlaghecken

Module Teachers

Gemma Gray, James Tresilian, Anu Realo,

Module Aims

This module will introduce the biological and methodological basis of current approaches to sensing, responding, emotion, language, learning, memory, and psychological disorders. Taken together, PS111 (Brain and Behaviour) and PS112 (Psychology in Context) will provide a general introduction to Psychology designed to support work in the second and third years of the Psychology Honours Degree.

Section 1: Biological Basis of Behaviour Lecturer: Dr Gemma Gray


This section presents a basic introduction to the structure and function of nervous system, and seeks to demonstrate how contemporary study of mind and behaviour is informed by our understanding of neurobiology.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this section, students should be able to:

  • give an overview of the anatomical organisation of the nervous system;
  • give an overview of the electro-chemical activity of the neuron;
  • describe in general terms how neurochemical processes provide the basis of nervous system function;
  • describe in general terms the brain as a continually adapting system;
  • give a basic account of brain development;
  • give a basic account of the psychobiological mechanisms of learning and memory;
  • give a basic account of the psychobiological mechanisms of rehabilitation and their limits;
  • apply a biologically informed perspective on further study of psychology.

Section 2: Sensing, Responding and Learning, Lecturer: Prof James Tresilian


The purpose of this section is to provide an understanding of how organisms detect and respond to stimulation, how their responses are changed by experience and the neural processes and circuits that underly these capacities.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this section, students should:

  • understand how stimulation is detected and used to evoke responses;
  • describe the basic characteristics of stimulus-elicited behaviours and their neural mechanisms;
  • understand the distinction between reflex and voluntary action;
  • describe how stimulus-elicited behaviours are altered by experience;
  • understand the neural basis of reflexes and their habituation;
  • have a good understanding of Pavlovian learning and how it is implemented in the brain;
  • have an appreciation for the role of Pavlovian learning in everyday life

Section 3: Neuropsychology of Learning, Memory, Emotion and Language, Lecturer: Prof. James Tresilian


The purpose of this section is to introduce our developing understanding of how learning, memory, language, emotion and goal-directed action are rooted in the structure and function of the brain.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the section students should:

  • Understand how memory can be lost and learning can be undone
  • have a good understanding of instrumental learning and the distinction between habits and goal-guided actions;
  • be familiar with the neural basis of memory;
  • be able to describe the classical theories of emotion and of the emotional brain
  • understand Pavlovian threat conditioning and what it tells us about the neural basis of emotion
  • have a good understanding of functional specialisation in the brain;
  • be familiar with the cortical areas associated with language and how these relate to language disorders such as aphasia;

Section 4: Psychopathology Lecturer: Professor Anu Realo and Dr Sakari Lemola


The purpose of this section is to introduce contemporary psychological and biological approaches to mental illness and to place these in a historical context.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this section, students should:

  • become familiar with the diversity of current approaches to mental illness and trace their historical roots;
  • have a good grasp of the types of symptoms seen in anxiety, depressive and psychotic conditions;
  • have a basic understanding of the biological dysfunction underlying these conditions;
  • have a basic knowledge of the main treatment approaches used for these conditions.

Module Work Load

Module Length

24 Weeks


20 x 3 lecture hours per week, 4 x 2 hours per week




Attendance at lectures is compulsory

Module Assessment

Assessed work: Online Tests Each individual test contributes 25% to the overall test mark.

Students who for valid reasons are unable to complete all four tests may be able to take a further test (or tests) at another time.

32% (24 CAT) or 20% (30 CAT)

Assessed work: Additional written assignment (for 30-CATS students only)








Module Reading List

Set Text/Illustrative Reading

  • Bear, M. F., Connors, B. W., and Paradiso, M. A. (2006). Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain (3rd ed.). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
  • Gazzaniga, M.S., Ivry, R.B., & Mangun, G.R. (2014). Cognitive Neuroscience (4th Intl. Student Ed.). W.W. Norton.
  • Tresilian, J.R. (2012) Sensorimotor Control and Learning: An Introduction to the Behavioral Neuroscience of Action. Palgrave Macmillan (particularly relevant to sections 2 & 3, weeks 6-9 and weeks 11-12).
  • Kring, A.M., Johnson, S.L., Davison, G.C., & Neale, J.M. (2010). Abnormal Psychology (11th Ed). New York: Wiley.

Online Reading Links:

(For psychology undergraduates, it is recommended to acquire at least the Bear et al and the Kring et al textbooks.)

Additional reading suggestions will be given in the lectures. All relevant reading will be made available in the Student Reserve Collection in the library.