BSc Zoology with Industrial/Professional Experience / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Sensory Systems

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL21341
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


"Sensory Systems" takes an integrated look at how information from the outside world is processes by a nervous system. Focussing on the neuronal cell and circuit level of the senses in primates, it also compares "sense" across species, and expands to examine how senses are integrated and interpreted at a cognitive level.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Excitable Cells: the Foundations of Neuroscience BIOL10832 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
BIOL21341 Pre- & Co-requisites are BIOL10832


This course aims to explain

  • how external stimuli impact upon central neural pathways to give rise to perception
  • the nature and extent of sensory systems from periphery to CNS, with emphasis on the higher mammalian systems, but including appropriate comparative comparisons
  • basic elements of the cognitive processes involved in sensory interpretation and reaction.

Learning outcomes


  • Introduction to comparative sensory physiology (1 module)
  • Chemoreception: gustation and olfaction (2 modules)
  • Vision: eye, retina and the vision we don’t see (3 modules)
  • Comparative aspects of colour vision (1 module)

Knowledge and understanding

Students should be able to; Comprehend the ability of the nervous system to access, integrate and interpret sensory information. Understand the common plan of sensory systems across species, as models for neuroscience research. Look beyond "sense" to cognition.


Intellectual skills

Students should be able to; Aquire new information from lecture and non-lecture sources. Integrate and understand complex concepts. Understand complex concepts. Understand and apply factual knowledge.

Practical skills

Students should be able to; Retrieve information from non-lecture sources; integrate this with material delivered in the module.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Students should be able to be self motivate and use all the available learning resources.

Employability skills

Group/team working
Encourage the use of Blackboards discussion group for student-to-student communication. There is also a student led discussion group.
Oral communication
Students are reminded (repeatedly) to ask questions during or after lectures, and one session is devoted to discussion of examination questions and how best to answer them.
Looking at research, as presented in the lecture course; with insight into research methods etc.
Written communication
Strongly encourage the use of Blackboards discussion group.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 15%
Written exam 85%
  1. Online weekly e-Tests - 30 minutes long - Feedback is given after each test has closed 15%
  2. End of semester exam, (Section A  - SAQs / Section B - 1 essay from 3) - 2 hours - Feedback is given after exa results are released. 85% (A 25% / B 60%)

Feedback methods

Feedback for the online tests is automated and will be provided after each test closes. The blackboard online discussion board will be used for specific questions so that all students and staff can view and comment on these. Alternatively, students can e-mail staff directly and the question will be transferred to the discussion board, anonymously, along with the answer. There will be a feedback session after the exam. The format of this session will be dependent on the current covid-19 situation.

Recommended reading

Bear MF, Connors BW & Paradiso MA. Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain (3rd Edition) 2006 Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins

Kandel ER, Schwartz JH & Jessel TM. Principles of Neural Science (4th Edition) 2000 McGraw-Hill Medical

For Information and advice on Link2Lists reading list software, see:

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.3
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 76.7

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nicholas Glossop Unit coordinator

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