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    Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience

    Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science

    Gain in-depth training in core aspects of contemporary neuroscience, from sensation and sensory processing to understanding complex brain functions and artificial intelligence. You'll work on a research project in cognitive neuroscience with a world-leading expert from the Department of Psychology and be prepared for a career in research, healthcare, industry or study to PhD level.
    Two students

    Course description

    This 12-month course will give you in-depth training in core aspects of contemporary neuroscience, from sensation and sensory processing, to understanding complex brain functions and artificial intelligence. You'll be prepared for an exciting career in research, healthcare, industry, or further study to PhD level.

    Throughout your course, our neuroscientists will introduce you to the core problems in computational and cognitive neuroscience, adaptive behaviour, and artificial neural networks.

    We will teach you the core techniques in experimental cognitive psychology, including computational modelling, data analysis, and cutting-edge neuroimaging, and give you opportunities to apply these techniques.

    Over six months you will work on your research project in cognitive neuroscience with one of our world-leading experts in the Department of Psychology. Your research topic could range from basic to theoretical neuroscience. You may have the opportunity to collect and analyse real-life cognitive brain science data, using state-of-the-art equipment, before presenting your findings at our summer student-led conference.

    This project gives you the opportunity to put your new techniques in experimental neuroscience into practice, while exploring ideas at the cutting-edge of cognitive neuroscience. It is common for MSc research projects to form the basis of publications in peer-reviewed journals.

      Example research projects
      • Cortical arealization and pattern formation: spontaneity and control
      • Simulating the effect of peripheral neuropathy on tactile feedback during gait and balance
      • The effects of different spiking patterns and reuptake rates in a model of striatal dopamine
      • Trial-to-trial variability in human EEG recordings during visual stimulation and behaviour
      • Understanding connectivity in the brain through time-series analysis
      Example past papers published, including student authors
      • Brooke JM, James SS, Jiminez-Rodriguez A, Wilson SP (2022) Biological action at a distance: Correlated pattern formation in adjacent tessellation domains without communication. PLoS Computational Biology. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009963
      • Wilson SP, James SJ, Whiteley DJ, Krubitzer LA (2019) Limit cycle dynamics can guide the evolution of gene regulatory networks towards point attractors. Scientific Reports 9: 16750. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-53251-w
      • Bruyns-Haylett M, Luo J, Kennerley AJ, Harris S, Boorman L, Milne E, Vautrelle N, Hayashi Y, Whalley BJ, Jones M, Berwick J, Riera J & Zheng Y (2016) The neurogenesis of P1 and N1: a concurrent EEG/LFP study. NeuroImage.
      • Dickinson A, Jones M & Milne E (2016) Measuring neural excitation and inhibition in autism: different approaches, different findings and different interpretations. Brain Research.
      • Slack R, Boorman L, Patel P, Harris S, Bruyns-Haylett M, Kennerley A, Jones M & Berwick J (2016) A novel method for classifying cortical state to identify the accompanying changes in cerebral haemodynamics. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 267, 21-34

        If you have a passion for understanding the brain and behaviour, whether your background is in biology, engineering, physics, mathematics, psychology or medicine, this interdisciplinary course has been designed to ensure that you will gain in-depth knowledge of the fundamentals of neuroscience, ready for an exciting career in research or industry.

        The University is home to the Neuroscience Institute which brings together internationally-recognised expertise in medicine, science and engineering to improve the lives of patients and families affected by neurological, sensory and developmental disorders.

        Other courses in cognitive neuroscience

        We offer MSc courses that cover the full breadth of cognitive neuroscience, from the biological basis to imaging and simulation, allowing you to discover the area that you’re most interested in:

        MSc Cognitive Neuroscience and Human Neuroimaging

        MSc Systems Neuroscience


        A selection of modules are available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

        Fundamentals of Neuroscience

        The module provides an introduction to core aspects of contemporary neuroscience, and it will consider the current state of knowledge in the field, central theoretical issues and key practical approaches. Topics that are discussed include: neural signalling, sensation and sensory processing, movement and its central control, the 'changing brain' (development and plasticity in the nervous system) and complex brain functions.

        15 credits
        Computational Neuroscience 1: Biologically Grounded Models

        This module starts with a primer on neuroscience and the role of computational neuroscience. The next part of the module covers abstract neuron models and introduce classic computational principles and learning rules related to neural networks. From there we move to more biologically grounded models and deal with single neuron models including leaky-integrate-and-fire and conductance-based neurons. Finally, we examine higher levels of description, in particular systems in context of reinforcement learning. While the emphasis throughout the module is on methodological issues, how models can be built, tested and validated at each level, we will also draw connections to specific brain regions to motivate and illustrate the models.

        15 credits
        Computational Neuroscience 2: Theoretical Models

        The module builds on ideas developed in Computational Neuroscience 1 to explore networks of neurons, neural circuits and their dynamics, and models of complete brain systems. As in Computational Neuroscience 1, this is taught using both mechanistic (bottom-up) and theoretical (top-down) perspectives but, in this module, emphasis is placed on computational models of neuronal networks and systems.

        15 credits
        Mathematical Modelling and Research Skills

        This module develops basic skills required to understand and participate in research in computational and cognitive neuroscience. The course begins with a refresher course in reading and writing skills, understanding of quantitative data and basic algebra and calculus. The course moves on to cover more advanced mathematical modelling techniques including matrix algebra, ordinary differential equations and optimisation methods. Programming skills are introduced via the MatLab modelling language. All topics are illustrated by application to concrete modelling examples relevant to contemporary neuroscience.

        15 credits
        Systems Neuroscience

        The module provides an advanced understanding of the brain's major computational systems and the theoretical or model-driven approaches to research of these topics. Major processing units of the brain will be described and, where appropriate, emphasis will be placed on understanding each of these structures in terms of both their micro- and macro-circuitry. One focus of the module will be to impart an appreciation of how many fundamental questions relating to brain function requires study at a range scales, from single cell to whole brain and behaviour. The various strategies adopted for investigating and modelling brain-circuits, and the consideration of circuits as the defining feature of brain systems, will be presented.

        15 credits
        Research Project in Cognitive Neuroscience

        The module allows students to work on an extended research project within computational neuroscience and/or cognitive neuroscience and/or systems neuroscience and/or analysis of brain imaging data. Students will learn and apply appropriate research techniques, analyse and interpret the results, and write up the research findings using recognised journal frameworks. Students will receive guidance and regular feedback from their supervisors. The project culminates in an oral presentation and a written dissertation.

        75 credits

        The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's 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.

        Open days

        An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses.

        Find out what makes us special at our next online open day on Wednesday 17 April 2024.

        You may also be able to pre-book a department visit as part of a campus tour.Open days and campus tours


        1 year full-time


        You’ll learn through hands-on laboratory sessions, problem-solving classes, lectures, seminars and individual projects.

        Your individual research project will account for 75 credits of your course, where you’ll be working alongside PhD students and experienced postdoctoral researchers. Here you’ll gain extensive first-hand experience as a researcher, and will have access to the outstanding research facilities in Sheffield.


        You will be assessed through formal examinations and coursework which may include essays, poster presentations, coding assignments, and a dissertation.

        Regular feedback is also provided, so you can understand your own development throughout the course

        Your career

        With the valuable skills and knowledge that you’ll develop throughout your research training, including computational modelling, imaging, and analysis expertise, you’ll be well equipped for careers including:

        • roles within deep learning, machine learning or artificial intelligence
        • analysis and visualisation of data within hospitals, other healthcare providers or the pharmaceutical industry
        • pursuing a career in research, understanding major diseases like stroke, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons and epilepsy within academia or governmental organisations.

        If you choose to continue your research training, this course is great preparation for a PhD in areas including neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and brain interfaces, or to begin clinical training.


        Department of Psychology

        Lecturer demonstrating an EEG is a test to a class. A student wears a headpiece used to evaluate the electrical activity in the brain

        The Department of Psychology at Sheffield is focused on exploring the science behind the human brain and human behaviour.

        Our teaching is informed by cutting-edge scientific research, which ranges from neuroscience through to child development and understanding why psychological therapies are effective. All of this has an impact on wider society.

        Our work explores health and wellbeing, lifestyle choices, cognitive behavioural therapy, safe driving, mother-baby interaction, autism, Parkinson's disease, and reducing prejudice and inequality. It’s research like this that our students are able to get involved in throughout their course.

        Entry requirements

        Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree in either a life science (including psychology) or a mathematical/physical science (including engineering).

        We also accept medical students who wish to intercalate their studies.

        Technical content

        We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

        Entry requirements for international students

        Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.

        Pathway programme for international students

        If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for a pre-masters programme in Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.


        We accept medical students who wish to intercalate their studies. Find out more on the School of Medicine and Population Health website.

        If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

        Fees and funding

        Department bursaries

        Each year we offer two bursaries to students on this course. If you're awarded a bursary you'll receive a £1,500 reduction in your tuition fees. These bursaries are awarded on a competitive basis, based on:

        • academic performance as indicated by a grade point average and transcript
        • other relevant skills and knowledge (for example, programming courses outside the degree or relevant work experience)
        • research activity (co-authoring papers, conference presentations, etc)
        • personal statement, which should include information on why you want to do the course you have applied for and how it fits with your aspirations

        To be considered for a bursary in the year that you intend to start your course, submit your application to study with us by 31 May. All applications received before this deadline will automatically be considered for a bursary.


        You can apply now using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

        Apply now


        +44 114 222 6533

        Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

        Our student protection plan

        Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.