BSc Biology

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Drugs & the Brain

Unit code BIOL21312
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No


Drugs and the Brain outlines the important types of drugs, including anaesthetics, antipsychotics and antidepressants, which are used to influence activity in the brain. You will learn how these drugs act on neurotransmitters and the side effects that their actions can cause.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Drugs: From Molecules to Man BIOL10822 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Clinical Drug Development BIOL21302 Co-Requisite Recommended
BIOL21312 Pre & Co-requisites are BIOL10822


To describe

  • the aetiology and symptomology of a range of brain disorders
  • the range of mechanisms by which drugs can interfere with neurotransmission in the central nervous system (CNS)
  • how neurotransmitter activities can be modified by drugs leading to the rational treatment of CNS disorders
  • how an understanding of neurotransmitters and mechanisms of drug action can lead to more selective treatment of CNS disorders.

Learning outcomes

After completing the unit and recommended reading, students should have an understanding of:

  • basic mechanisms of brain disorders
  •    important classes of drugs used in medicine and/or biological research to influence central neuronal activity, particularly in humans
  •    the mechanisms of action of these drugs in terms of their effects on major neurotransmitters
  •    mechanism-related drug side-effects


      Introduction to neuropharmacology

      The central synapse: neurotransmitter systems as targets for drug therapy

      Accessing the central synapse: the blood-brain barrier to drugs

      Pharmacology of movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease

      Pharmacology of general anaesthetics and local anaesthetics

      Pharmacology of antipyretic-analgesic drugs

      Pharmacology of opioid analgesic drugs

      Pharmacology of antiepileptic drugs

      Pharmacology of anxiolytic drugs

      Pharmacology of CNS stimulants and psychotomimetics

Online: 2 MCQ exams, (2.5% each). Take home written examination comprising 2 essays from a choice of 6 (95%).

Feedback methods

Mid-sessional formative assessment / feedback. Post-exam guidance.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 76.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Richard Prince Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Optional question and answer


(11 hours)


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