MSc Neuroimaging for Clinical & Cognitive Neuroscience / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Experimental Design and Optimisation

Unit code BIOL62131
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No


This unit will explore the complex interaction between experimental design variables, the characteristics of the hemodynamic response function and cortical neuronal activity and the demands of MR and EEG/ERP data acquisition procedures, and their respective environments.

The course will explore both blocked and event-related designs and will highlight the potential advantages of mixed designs. There will be a strong focus on contrasting different types of experimental design and the relative strengths and weaknesses they bring to an experiment. Confounding factors, control and power issues and the fundamentals of how to set up a good research hypothesis will be explored.

The major theoretical component of the course will be complemented by the acquisition of practical experimental paradigm development skills and quantitative statistical analysis skills.


This unit aims to provide students with a solid working knowledge and detailed understanding of the key factors involved in the design and optimisation of functional imaging experiments (fMRI and EEG/ERP) and how these impact on data analysis and interpretation. The course also aims to provide the skills required to be able to design an effective and valid fMRI and EEG/ERP experiment.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course unit, students will be able to:

  • have a solid understanding of how to set up a good research hypothesis in cognitive brain imaging;
  • have a detailed understanding of the key issues involved in fMRI and PET experimental design;
  • have a detailed understanding of the key issues involved in EEG/ERP experimental design;
  • have a good working knowledge of the relative advantages and disadvantages of blocked, event and mixed designs;
  • have a good working knowledge of various categorical, factorial and parametric designs and issues relating to their interpretation;
  • design and set up an fMRI and EEG/ERP experiment;
  • critically evaluate cognitive brain imaging data in terms of the experimental design;
  • use a computerised stimulus presentation procedure.

Teaching and learning methods

This course is delivered via 12 x two-hour lectures/labs over a six-week period. Teaching will be complemented by the availability of notes, slides and recommended reading.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 70%
Set exercise 30%

Feedback methods

No information available.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 24
Independent study hours
Independent study 126

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Martyn Mcfarquhar Unit coordinator

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