MSc Neuroscience modules

On this page you can find out about the modules on our MSc Neuroscience.

To learn more about the course, visit the University of Sheffield's online prospectus:

MSc Neuroscience

Compulsory modules – students take all four:

Literature Review (30 credits)

Module leader: Professor Marcello Rivolta

Before starting on the laboratory component of their research, project students must undertake an in depth survey of the literature relevant to the project and prepare a research proposal. Students will be required to carry out an exhaustive search of material relevant to their project using the resources of the University, including the web. This will involve primarily private study by the student under the direction of the project supervisor who will meet with the student at regular intervals to ensure satisfactory progress.

Laboratory Research Project (60 credits)

Module leader: Professor Steve Winder

The unit aims to provide students with experience of laboratory research and develop their practical and organisational skills required for a career in science. Students undertake a project related to their area of specialization which reflects the research activities in the Department. Projects will run in the laboratories of the research groups and although students will have contact with various staff, each student will have an identified member of staff as their project supervisor. Students will gain experience of experimental design and execution and in the collation, interpretation and presentation of data. Assessment of the project will be based on; a written report, laboratory performance, delivery and defence of an oral presentation, a poster presentation and an oral examination.

Critical Analysis of Current Science (15 credits)

Module leader: Dr Anne-Gaelle Borycki

This unit is designed to develop the student’s ability to read and understand the scientific literature relating to their own research area and also enable them to integrate their own work into the wider scientific field. The unit consists of three components; a tutorial/seminar programme of up to 16 tutorial sessions designed to develop student skills in reading, understanding and criticising scientific literature; attendance at departmentally organised review lectures covering broad areas of science delivered by internationally recognised scientists; participation in all support sessions provided by the research groups in support of their research programme. Each component would be assessed separately with written reports, some undertaken under formal examination conditions.

Ethics and Public Awareness of Science (15 credits)

Module leader: Dr Andrew Furley

This unit introduces an outline of the legislative limitations and ethical influences on biomedical science. It will address how these are influenced by public attitudes and explore how these, in turn, are influenced by the scientific community. The unit will contain a factual and objective core, however students will be encouraged to explore, develop and express their own beliefs and value systems.


Practical modules – students take both:

Practical Developmental Genetics (15 credits)

Module leader: Dr Vincent Cunliffe

The practical unit aims to provide students with experience of research techniques in developmental biology. Students will perform experiments designed to reveal molecular and cellular principles underpinning developmental mechanisms. Emphasis will be placed on exploiting classical genetic and molecular resources available in model organisms such as zebrafish, Drosophila melanogaster, and chick for studying gene function in development. Students will gain experience of performing experimental work, data collection and interpretation of results.

Neuroscience Techniques (15 credits)

Module leader: Dr Paul Gokhale

This module aims to introduce students to a range of laboratory techniques. Students are given the principles of tissue culture, basic sterile technique and the aseptic preparation of buffers and media. Reference is made to the special requirements of neural cell culture. They will also gain experience of cell culture together with training in aspects of cryostat and paraffin section preparation. Class practical sessions utilise student-prepared sections and cells to perform standard histochemical and immunohistochemical procedures, and different methods for tract tracing within nervous system tissue. Images derived from the practicals are analysed using computer based image processing techniques.

Note: Numbers of participants may be restricted on practical modules in order to maintain an effective laboratory learning experience.


Lecture modules – students choose two:

Sensory Neuroscience (15 credits)

Module leader: Professor Walter Marcotti

This module covers the adult function and functional development of auditory, visual and whisker systems, including sensory transduction, signal selectivity and information coding. It will focus primarily on the periphery but will include representation of information in central pathways, with attention to animal models including mammals, fish and flies. The aims will be to show how physiological and developmental mechanisms combine to create the exquisite structural and functional tuning of sensory systems to the external world and how complex sensory information is encoded in the nervous system. Special attention will be given to comparative analysis of auditory and visual systems.

Computational Neuroscience: Biologically Grounded Models (15 credits)

Module leader: Professor Kevin Gurney

This module starts by outlining some major methodological principles in computational neuroscience including the difference between approaches which are more bottom-up (biologically grounded) and those which are more top-down (algorithm-based). The rest of the module is devoted to the more bottom-up view and deals first with single neuron models including: leaky-integrate-and-fire, conductance-based, and reduced model neurons. It then goes on to deal with other structural levels of description - microcircuits, systems, and embodied or robotic models. While specific brain systems are used as a vehicle for exposition, the emphasis is always on methodological issues - how models can be built, tested and validated at each level.

Developmental Neurobiology (15 credits)

Module leader: Dr Andrew Furley

This course examines the mechanisms that underlie development of the nervous system during embryogenesis. Examples will be described from a variety of model organisms to introduce key steps in the establishment of the CNS and PNS, steps that include neural induction, neural patterning, early segregation of CNS and PNS, the establishment and refinement of connectivity in the nervous system. Recent research from teachers of this course, and from both the classical and current literature is used to analyse and evaluate theories and mechanisms of establishment of the functional nervous system.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it is up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research, funding changes, professional accreditation requirements, student or employer feedback, outcomes of reviews, and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

Information last updated: 1 December 2020


Postgraduate taught scholarships

Explore scholarships for postgraduate taught courses starting in 2021, including:

  • 100+ scholarships worth £10,000 each for home fee paying students
  • 150 scholarships worth 25 per cent of the tuition fee for international students