Studying Cognition and Emotion with Brain Imaging

Module titleStudying Cognition and Emotion with Brain Imaging
Module codePSY3419
Academic year2014/5
Module staff

Dr Aureliu Lavric (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Studying the mind by measuring the brain… is it possible, enlightening, beneficial? Until recently experimental and clinical psychologists have relied on overt manifestations of behaviour to investigate the mental processes. Dramatic technological developments have made it possible to measure (and even alter) innocuously brain function. This module is about the methods that have been developed to derive knowledge about the mental processes from various kinds of brain measurements. The module requires basic knowledge of brain neurophysiology, and solid understanding of experimental psychology and clinical psychology (see pre-requisites below). Thus, it is rarely suitable for non-psychology students.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The main objective of the module is to provide you with specialised knowledge and critical understanding of the most widely used brain-imaging technologies. An important aim of the seminar is to develop a thorough understanding of the bio-physical principles underlying imaging techniques, and also to provide you with specialised knowledge about a variety of psychological domains in which they are employed. The seminar will not just focus on research applications - there will be an equally strong emphasis on clinical applications of brain-imaging. A comparative approach will be used, with attention drawn to both advantages and drawbacks of different imaging modalities.

This module is expected to improve your employment prospects in at least three ways. First, brain imaging data are increasingly permeating various professions/activities (from healthcare to education to marketing), as well as the media and policy making. Because the module provides you with in-depth knowledge on brain measurement and stimulation techniques, you will be well equipped to understand and interpret brain data. Second, to make sense of complex brain measurements, one needs to grasp fundamental aspects of the logic of scientific inference (why the data mean what they mean?) and principles of statistical analysis (how confident are we that the data mean what they mean?). These fundamental principles are general to most or all scientific disciplines – thus by promoting them, the module will educate you to interpret/evaluate scientific evidence in general. Third, the module contains various forms of assessment: summative (essay, written examination, group presentation) and formative (bullet-point essays, in-class quizzes, computer-based analysis of imaging data), which tap into and develop distinct transferable skills: scientific writing, identifying and reviewing the relevant literature; learning to use novel software; extracting the most relevant content and expressing it in brief form; working as part of a group, communicating complex data to an audience.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Evaluate results from imaging studies
  • 2. Make an informed choice of the imaging modalities to be employed in future studies or clinical settings

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Acquire detailed, systematic and comprehensive knowledge within the discipline, with in-depth specialisation at the forefront of the discipline in certain areas, and demonstrate advanced critical understanding of this knowledge and of the limits and provisional nature of this knowledge
  • 4. Review and critically evaluate published work at an advanced level and identify the strengths and weaknesses of this work, and at an advanced level structure this literature to present logical, coherent and sustained arguments to support conclusions at an advanced level
  • 5. Address systematically complex problems at an advanced level which may be framed within unpredictable contexts, think critically, creatively and independently, and fully appreciate the complexities of the issues
  • 6. Understand and apply essential principles in designing novel research, and critically evaluate and analyse empirical evidence, and assess the reliability of empirical evidence using a range of defined techniques at an advanced level
  • 7. Illustrate the wider ethical issues relating to the subject and its application at an advanced level

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Interact effectively and supportively within a learning group
  • 9. Manage your own learning using the full range of resources of the discipline and with minimum guidance
  • 10. Describe your own criteria of self-evaluation and challenge received opinion and reflect on your actions, and seek and make use of feedback
  • 11. Select and manage information, and undertake competently study tasks with minimum guidance
  • 12. Take responsibility for your own work and criticise it
  • 13. Engage effectively in debate in a professional manner and produce detailed and coherent written work; identify complex problems and apply appropriate knowledge and methods for their solution with confidence and flexibility
  • 14. Act autonomously with minimal supervision or direction, within agreed guidelines
  • 15. Manage time effectively to meet deadlines

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Week 1. Structural vs. functional imaging. The fundamentals of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Week 2. Functional MRI (fMRI): the basics

Week 3. fMRI: finding and analysing the activations

Week 4. Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

Week 5. Monitoring brain activity with high temporal precision: Electroencephalography (EEG) and Event- Related Potentials (ERPs)

Week 6. Making sense of brain data: common issues and approaches

Week 7. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

Week 8. Interactive tutorial on a concrete application of brain-imaging

Week 9. Interactive tutorial on a concrete application of brain-imaging

Week 10. Interactive tutorial on a concrete application of brain-imaging

Week 11. Revision

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching33Seminars (11 x 3 hours)
Guided Independent Study80Preparation for seminars
Guided Independent Study37Writing of coursework essay and revision for exam


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Practice exam answersOut of class written assignments of 1-2 pages1-7, 9, 10, 13-15Oral and written collective feedback to the whole class during the interactive tutorials

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay403000 words1-7, 9, 10, 13-15Written
Examination603 hours1-7Feedback upon request


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-7, 9, 10, 13-15August Ref/Def
ExaminationExamination1-7August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Two assessments are required for this module. For the examination and essay, the reassessment will be the same as the original assessment. Where you have been referred/deferred in the examination you will have the opportunity to take a second examination in the August/September re-assessment period. This will constitute 60% of the module. Where you have been referred/deferred in the essay you will be required to resubmit the essay. This will constitute 40% of the module. Deferred marks are not capped; referred marks are capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Ward J. W. (2010). The student’s guide to Cognitive Neuroscience (2nd ed). Psychology Press, Taylor and Francis


Electronic reading packs with further core reading and optional reading will be provided by the module convenor

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Psychology, brain imaging, cognition, emotion

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

PSY1207, PSY2303, PSY2304 or equivalent

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date