BSc Medical Physiology with Entrepreneurship

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Drugs & the Brain

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL21312
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
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
Excitable Cells: the Foundations of Neuroscience BIOL10832 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
BIOL21312 Pre & Co-requisites are BIOL10822

Students only need to study one of the pre-requisite courses


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
•    Pharmacology of antipsychotic drugs
•    Pharmacology of antidepressant drugs

Employability skills

Group/team working
Students are encouraged to support each other using the unit Padlet board
Oral communication
Students may ask questions during weekly question and answer sessions.
Written communication
Through the use of Padlet discussion board (see below). Also via exam essays

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 20%
Written exam 80%

On campus written exam (1.5 hours) comprising two sections. Section A: a choice of 2 out of a choice of 3 short note questions; Section B: a choice of 6 out of 7 short note questions

Feedback methods

Formative assessments in eLearning Modules. Post-exam guidance.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Lectures 24
Independent study hours
Independent study 74.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Richard Prince Unit coordinator

Additional notes

1 hour live introductory lecture
21 E-learning modules each with approximately 1 hour of pre-recorded content
A series of documentary and movie sessions will also be delivered. Students will be required to attend at least one of these in order to complete the reflective coursework exercise. Typical duration content duration: 2-3 hours

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