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Unit information: Neurophysiology in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Neurophysiology
Unit code PHPH20009
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Clea Warburton
Open unit status Not open






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


This unit focuses on the physiology of the mammalian peripheral and central nervous systems. The topics include principles of neurophysiology, motor control, somatic and special senses and higher mental functions. Associated practical classes examine human neuromuscular and sensory function.

The unit includes teaching and learning related to the development of concepts and skills connected to the physiology content of the course. This includes data handling and analysis, report writing, essay writing skills and comprehension of scientific literature.

The aims are:

• To provide systematic coverage of mammalian neurophysiology

• To provide a link between the first and third year of the Physiology programme in content

• To further develop transferable and scientific skills in preparation for the final year of the programme

These aims will be accomplished through lectures, class tutorials and independent work. In addition, a focus will be on gaining experimental skills both practical and written through class practical sessions.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the this unit students should:

1. Have knowledge and understanding of the principles of neurophysiology (A3)

2. Be able to describe fundamental aspects of central nervous system function (A3)

3. Be able to give accounts of somatic and special senses and higher order nervous function (A3)

4. Synthesise, understand, manage and summarise information from a number of sources (B1, C4)

5. Carry out experiments guided by worksheets (B2)

6. Interpret and manipulate scientific data (B3)

7. Read and understand scientific literature (B4)

8. Communicate clearly in writing (C1)

9. Use IT facilities for data handling and presentation of written work (C3)

Teaching details

  • Lectures (30)
  • Laboratory practicals (6: 3xCNS; 3xspecial senses)
  • Class tutorials (4: essay planning; practical write-up; paper review; DIQ)
  • e-learning (eBiolabs pre- and post-practicals exercises; paper review MCQ assessment hosted on eBiolabs/Blackboard)

Assessment Details

The unit will be assessed through a combination of course work undertaken throughout the unit and written exam at the end of the unit.

Coursework (15%)

1. Essay; 2000 words (5%)

2. eBiolabs Post Practical Assessment (5%)

3. Short Practical Report (5%)

Each summative component will be preceded by a formative exercise, except in the case of Post Practical eBiolabs and essay writing. The summative essay will be supported by a class tutorial on constructing an essay plan. Post Practical eBiolabs-based assessments support participation in the practicals and reinforce knowledge gained in these sessions.

Students will work together in small groups of about 6 to produce the short practical report. 20% of the mark for the short practical report will come from the contribution to group working (special arrangements will be in place if individuals are reasonably unable to work in a group) and 80% of the mark will come from the group-produced short practical report itself.

Comprehension of Scientific Literature 1 hr (5%)

Comprehension of scientific literature will be assessed using MCQs marked electronically. This exercise will be supported by a class tutorial on how to gather information from scientific literature. Students will have access to papers and example questions prior to the summative exercise.

Final Exam 2hrs (80%)

Essay – 1 essay from a choice of 4 (33.33%)

Data interpretation question – 10 best of 5 multiple choice question (33.33%)

Best of 5 multiple choice questions – 30 (33.33%)

Reading and References

Information will be drawn from a number of sources for any one topic. Individual lecturers will make recommendations of useful information sources, both textbooks and reports in scientific journals. Some may recommend web-based materials. In this context useful textbooks include:

  • Berne and Levy Physiology, 6th Ed.
  • Berne and Levy Principles of Physiology, 4th Ed.
  • Kandel, Schwartz & Jessell: Principles of Neural Function ISBN:0071120009, 2000 Ed.
  • Bear, Connors & Paradiso: Neuroscience Exploring the Brain 2nd Ed., 2001. Lippincott

Alternative treatments of neurophysiology (but at a lower level then Kandel, Schwartz & Jessel):

  • Nicholls, Martin & Wallace: From Neuron to Brain, 4th Ed. 2001, ISBN:087934391
  • Shepherd: Neurobiology, 3rd Ed. 1994, ISBN:0195088433
  • Carpenter: Neurophysiology, 4th Ed. 2002, ISBN:0340808721

Useful for experimental data analysis (simple and adequate for most problems you will encounter)

  • Medical Statistics at a Glance, Blackwell, A. Petrie & C. Sabin
  • An Introduction to Medical Statistics, Oxford, M.Bland

Alternative sources for statistics:

  • Statistical Methods in Medical Research, 2nd ed. Blackwell, P.Armitage and G.Berry
  • Intuitive Biostatistics, Oxford, Harvey Motulsky

Useful resources for numeracy and writing skills:

  • Maths skills for advanced sciences, by Ken Price, Oxford University Press, ISBN:019914740X
  • The Complete Plain Words, Ernest Gowers, Penguin.
  • Eats Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. Lynn Truss, Profile Books.