Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Brains and Behaviour
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 20 hours of lectures
Seminars / Tutorials 2 hour tutorial, 6h bi-weekly optional drop-in 'clinics'
Practical 2 x 3 hour practical classes


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Coursework 1.  20%
Semester Assessment Coursework 2.  20%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   60%
Supplementary Assessment Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  40%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  60%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Discuss how particular nervous mechanisms form the basis of different behavioural acts across a variety of animal taxa.

2. Synthesise neural and endocrine concepts to explain why animal behaviour varies over a variety of time scales and behavioural contexts.

3. Describe key approaches to measure and analyse the neural basis of animal behaviour.

4. Critically compare research approaches in neuroethology.

Brief description

Brains and Behaviour introduces a range of neural, and neuroendocrine, mechanisms that underpin animal behaviour. It draws examples from a broad range of animal taxa (both vertebrate and invertebrate) where mechanisms of behaviour are becoming well understood. Teaching focuses on an in depth analysis of example systems of particular interest.


Introductory teaching will recap on classical ethological concepts. The factors that make particular behaviours and/or organisms suitable for neuroethological study will be considered through group discussion and problem-based learning exercises.
Certain animal behaviours provide classical models for neuroethological research, and these include escape, prey capture, communication, and locomotion. Each of these themes will be developed through analysis of model systems that cover a broad range of animal taxa. These will include both invertebrates (e.g. insects, crustaceans), and vertebrates (e.g. fish, birds, bats, amphibeans).
Teaching will also consider how mechanisms of behaviour are, to some extent, variable over a variety of timescales. The underlying mechanisms will be discussed drawing on a range of examples ranging from learning to circadian clock control.
Practical and tutorial teaching will guide students through the neuroethological research process. This will incorporate group problem-based learning exercises, and experiments investigating the mechanisms of behaviour. Students will present their findings in scientific format (this may include all or some of: general interest science articles, posters, and/or journal-style short communications). In addition to lab practicals, 'demonstration lectures' are embedded into the module, whereby students will be able to see concepts from lectures first hand.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Not a significant component of this module.
Communication Students will be asked to produce a report on laboratory practicals and PBL exercises, but these will explore a range of styles (selected from journal-style articles, popular sciences articles, posters, oral presentations). These will require students to assimilate lecture and practical information, and practice skills in tailoring their presentation to different audiences. They will also need to work within strictly limited word counts and employ a variety of writing styles. Such skills are valuable in a wide range of career paths.
Improving own Learning and Performance Not a significant component of this module, although students will be provided with feedback on assessed exercises and, through attending to that, could improve their skills.
Information Technology Not a significant component of this module, aside from standard word processing and spreadsheet packages.
Personal Development and Career planning The science communication and PBL exercises will encourage students to see their scientific knowledge in the context of wider society. This will help them to develop an understanding of the importance of these skills.
Problem solving Problem-based learning (PBL) tutorials will allow groups of students to tackle theoretical problems in science that require assimilation of lecture content, appraisal of factual information, and consideration of wider aims. An example of such an exercise would be that the group takes the role of a hypothetical funding body allocating limited funding across theoretical grant proposals that use different neuroethological approaches and model systems. Such skills are valuable in a wide range of career paths.
Research skills Students will undertake a range of practical, laboratory exercises and will be required to present their findings in a range of scientific formats. In addition, PBL tutorials will require students to critically evaluate information on scientific methods, and see these within a wider social and economic context, an increasingly important skill in scientific and allied professions. Such skills are particularly valuable to students wishing to pursue a scientific career.
Subject Specific Skills Collection, analysis, and presentation of neuroethological data.
Team work PBL exercises will place students in small groups where they will need to work towards a common goal and display negotiation and persuasion skills. The PBL exercises will be an assessed as part of the coursework component, and feedback will be given on team work skills (via peer assessment). Such skills are valuable in a wide range of career paths.


This module is at CQFW Level 6