Skip to main content

Understanding Biological Basis of Behaviour


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor: Michael Mallaghan
  • Assessment: a one-hour short-answer paper (50%) and one-hour timed essay (50%)

Module description

This module examines the relationship between biology, behaviour and mental processes, in particular the role of the brain and nervous system. It is specifically designed for anyone interested in biology and human behaviour. You will also assess whether the study of animal behaviour helps us understand our own behaviour.

Indicative module content

  • The structure of the brain and nervous system: the nervous system consists of around 12,000 million interconnected nerve cells (neurons). In this part of the course we examine the structure and function of the brain and the way biochemical processes and hormones come to influence behaviour. We will also examine sensory processes, specifically vision.
  • Evolution, adaptation and genetics: the study of behaviour involves many diverse phenomena: the action of a gene, the structure of a brain, the relation of the individual to his/her environment, and evolutionary events over millions of years. In this part of the course we will examine how far human behaviour can be accounted for in terms of evolution and genetics.
  • Research methods and ethics: what are the methods that physiological psychologists use? Can we justify using animals in our research? Biological aspects of psychological processes. The biology of language, memory, stress, anxiety, depression and addiction will be examined, as will biological aspects of social life and social organisation.