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Unit information: Principles of Pharmacology 2A - Pharmacology of the Nervous System in 2016/17

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Unit name Principles of Pharmacology 2A - Pharmacology of the Nervous System
Unit code PHPH20011
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Steve Fitzjohn
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences


This unit addresses the basic mechanisms of drug action, with a primary focus on Neuropharmacology. Major topics include: drug-receptor interactions; the pharmacological investigation of ion channels; central synaptic transmission; the pharmacology of the major classes of drugs affecting normal and abnormal central nervous function.


At the end of this unit students should be able to explain the basic principles of pharmacodynamics (how drugs act on the body), how the structural features required for drug-receptor interactions can be determined, understand how drugs modify the actions of major families of ion channels, describe the key features of neurotransmission at the skeletal neuromuscular junction and the effect of drugs on this system, describe the major neurotransmitter pathways in the central nervous system and their modification by drugs, understand the concepts of tolerance and physical dependence, explain how drugs are used to treat a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders.

Intended learning outcomes

  1. Agonism, antagonism and receptor theory;
  2. Function and pharmacology of known receptor subtypes;
  3. Function and pharmacology of ion channel subtypes;
  4. Composition and pharmacology of cell signalling pathways;
  5. Design and development of therapeutic agents;
  6. Drug use in exemplar disease states;
  7. Modern electrophysiological, biochemical and molecular biological techniques;
  8. Effects of drugs at the molecular, cellular and systems level;
  9. Synthesise information from a variety of sources (textbooks, lectures and tutorials, practical classes, original and review scientific papers, databases);
  10. Learn experimental practice and design;
  11. Interpret and manipulate experimental data, and draw logical conclusions from the results;
  12. Communicate clearly both orally and in writing;
  13. Work effectively as part of a team, demonstrating organisation, leadership, decision-making and time management;
  14. Retrieve and manage information, making appropriate use of library and web-based facilities;
  15. Utilise appropriate computer / keyboard skills;

Teaching details

Lectures (38)

Practicals (10x3hrs)

Small group tutorials (4)

e-learning (ebiolabs, pre- and post-practical assignments; CALs)

Assessment Details

The final mark for each Pharmacology Level 2 unit is made up as follows:

  • Written papers 75%
  • Practicals 15%
  • Tutorial work 10%

Please note also that the final marks from your level 2 Pharmacology Units together with the final marks from your other level 2 units will contribute 25% of the total marks for your Final Pharmacology Honours degree mark at the end of Year 3.

Reading and References

The recommended textbook for this course is:

Pharmacology, (Seventh Edition) including Student Consult Online Access H.P. Rang, M.M. Dale, J. Ritter & P.K. Moore Churchill Livingstone.

Other books you may wish to consult are:

  • Instant Pharmacology, K Saeb-Parsy, RG Assomull, FZ Khan, K Saeb-Parsy & E Kelly. A textbook partly written by Eamonn Kelly, containing concise descriptions of the different drug classes as well as an extensive dictionary of drugs which you may find useful.
  • The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics (Ninth Edition). L.S. Goodman & A. Gilman. Pergamon. You can consult this book in the library.
  • Basic & Clinical Pharmacology (Seventh Edition) B.G. Katzung. Appleton & Lange. (has a lot of clinically-orientated material).
  • Integrated Pharmacology, CP Page, MJ Curtis, MC Sutter, MJA Walker & BB Hoffman. (has a lot of clinically-orientated material).
  • Medical Pharmacology at a Glance (Third edition) M. Neal, Blackwell Scientific Press (a revision aide, not a complete textbook).

Multiple copies of most of the above are present in the Medical library. You may come across other textbooks in the library or bookshops - ask one of the staff for their opinion about these, since not all books are good books