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Unit information: Diseases of the nervous system in 2020/21

Unit name Diseases of the nervous system
Unit code SOCS30004
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Denize Atan
Open unit status Not open




School/department Bristol Medical School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences


The nervous system has a role in nearly every aspect of our health and daily activities. It regulates many homeostatic mechanisms in the body without our conscious involvement, such as our body temperature, heart rate and breathing. It also controls our interaction with the world through our senses, sensory perception, movement, and speech. Everything that we learn and remember in our lifetimes depends on the nervous system. Consequently, diseases of the nervous system can have devastating effects on our activities of daily living.

This unit will introduce some of the most common diseases of the nervous system and will give an overview of research into strategies that are being developed to prevent, slow disease progression or to treat these neurological disorders. The content will cover the basic biology of common neurodevelopmental, neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory disorders, current therapeutic strategies and pre-clinical/clinical applications of experimental research. As an integral part of the central nervous system, diseases of the eye will be included in this unit.

The main topics that will be described in this unit will include: 1) Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and experimental therapeutics; 2) the pathology of Parkinson’s disease and clinical therapies; 3) multiple sclerosis; 4) neonatal brain disorders; 5) common sight-threatening eye diseases. An overarching theme of this unit is the clinical application of stem cells or novel regenerative therapies, such as gene therapy, to these topics.

The unit aims to: (i) provide students with the fundamental knowledge of the basis of diseases of the nervous system, including neurodevelopmental, neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative disorders of the eye and brain; (ii) provide students with knowledge of new and emerging therapeutic approaches to treat these diseases of the eye and brain; (iii) provide students with an understanding of stem cell biology and how it can be used in regenerative medicine and to model diseases of the eye and brain.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, the students should be able to: (i) describe the underlying causes of key neurodegenerative, neurodevelopmental and neuroinflammatory disorders of the eye and brain and discuss recent research that contributes to understanding the pathophysiology of these diseases; (ii) discuss the basic principles and effectiveness of current and emerging therapeutic approaches for diseases of the eye and brain; (iii) describe how stem cells can generate new cells/tissues and critically appraise the utility of stem cells in modelling or treating diseases of the eye and brain.

Teaching details

This unit is taught through lectures and tutorials (which may be online or face-to-face, where appropriate). Independent study: students are expected to study the recommended literature.

Assessment Details

The unit will be assessed by timed summative assessments in May/June. Students will be expected to answer 2 essay questions, which will assess their knowledge and critical understanding of the field, and their ability to gather information from the primary scientific literature.

Reading and References

Selected relevant review papers from the literature