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BSc Anatomical Sciences / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Learning, Memory & Cognition (E)

Unit code BIOL31692
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No


Learning, Memory and Cognition will introduce you to the discipline of cognitive neuroscience and examine how central nervous system regions in invertebrates and mammals interact to produce behaviour. You will study the neural bases for learning and memory and explore how different types of memory are supported by different brain systems. Insight will be gained into how human neurological cases and experimental approaches in laboratory animals extend our understanding of normal brain function and how these functions are localised across species. Examples of the lecture topics covered are ’Learning, memory and amnesia’, ’Cerebral localization of cognitive function’, and ’Synaptic plasticity.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Sensory Systems BIOL21341 Pre-Requisite Recommended
Motor Systems BIOL21332 Pre-Requisite Recommended


To introduce students to the discipline of cognitive neuroscience and examine how nervous system regions from invertebrates to mammals interact to produce behaviour.

Learning outcomes

Students should be able to understand the neural bases for learning and memory in neural systems and explain how different types of memory are supported by different brain systems. Students will also gain insight into how neurological cases and experimental approaches extend our understanding of normal brain function and how those functions are localised across animal species. The course will also focus on how synaptic changes provide the cellular bases for learning and how these processes can be modelled computationally.


Introduction to Cognition - Early models for animal behaviour (e.g. behaviourism) versus the more recent rise of cognitive neuroscience. Introduction to learning, memory formation and memory retrieval.

Learning, memory and amnesia - Discussion of song acquisition, navigation and food-storing in birds. Evidence from mammals that different forms of learning are supported by discrete neural systems. Consideration of the neural bases for memory loss across species. How memory is used to direct and control behaviour with particular focus on the role of prefrontal cortex.

Cerebral localization of cognitive function - Discussion of language/communication as an example of lateralization of cognitive function in humans and other species. Importance of split-brain patients in understanding hemispheric lateralization.

Neuronal circuitry and the cellular mechanisms for memory acquisition and storage - How synaptic plasticity provides a model for memory processes within cell assemblies. This will help students link these cellular processes to learning and behaviour topics covered in earlier lectures.

Modelling learning and memory using neural networks - Students will gain insight into how simple artificial neural networks provide insight into biological learning mechanisms. Further, how this research has been applied and extended to more complex and biologically-realistic models.


We are developing a number of eLearning resources, including topics such as synaptic plasticity and a simple interactive modelling tool to examine learning (e.g., Hopfield networks).

Employability skills

Analytical skills
MCQ eLearning exam
Problem solving
MCQ eLearning exam
Written communication
Written examination in which students must choose two essay titles to answer

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 5%
Written exam 95%

2 hour written examination - students choose 2 essay titles (95%);

Other - 3 MCQ eLearning exams (5%).

Feedback methods

MCQ exam will provide feedback on students' progress and key areas for improvement. 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 18
Independent study hours
Independent study 82

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
John Gigg Unit coordinator

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