PY0538 - Diet and the Brain

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What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will learn about the effects of plants and plant compounds in our diet, plant-based drugs, and herbal extracts with potential therapeutic value. The human psychopharmacology of these plant derived chemicals will be covered including their effects and mechanisms of action. As such the module feeds into the ‘health’ pathway.
In terms of content, the module will cover basic nutrition; the impact of plant-based food on human health, cognition and mood; the psychotropic effects of drugs such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and cannabis, as well as their emerging therapeutic use; and the potential of herbal extracts such as sage and ginkgo biloba in the treatment of conditions such as dementia and anxiety. The psychopharmacology of these plant-based compounds will also be explored in terms of how they interact with human neurotransmitter systems.
This area of psychology is very dynamic and our knowledge is constantly expanding. As such, this module is heavily research-led with many individual research studies discussed in each lecture. This will assist you in developing a critical approach to evaluation of the literature and the methods employed.
At the end of the module you will understand what it is to be a biological psychologist and the main assignment is a real-world example of the kind of report you would compile if you decided to work in this area. This will draw together all that you have learned and allow you to demonstrate your understanding of how a good research project should be designed.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through a mixture of lecture and workshop styles. Some of the content lends itself best to traditional, lecture-style teaching and at other times you will be asked to engage with this information in groups in more of a workshop style. Technology enabled learning will also support this process; e.g. the use of Panopto to record the tutors’ voice over particularly complex slides/materials. It is also anticipated that you will seek support in the form of individual tutorials with the module tutor as and when you need it. Independent study is a key aspect of this module and it is vital that you spend the requisite tutor directed and student led independent study time consolidating information from the lectures/workshops.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will be supported within scheduled teaching time by the module tutor who will make a variety of resources available to you. You will also be supported by directed learning and group work/activities during the workshop elements. All of the academic resources you require will be available via the eLearning Portal. This will include lecture slides, related supplementary materials, recommended readings, video clips and other technology enhanced learning. Discussion board use will also be encouraged to facilitate group communication.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
• MK1: You will learn to apply critical analysis to key positions and debates within health psychology and plant research specifically.
• MK2: You will learn to utilize the findings of this research to support and justify your own opinions.
Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• MIP1: You will develop your skills in understanding the methodological and ethical issues when considering and designing protocols to test the effects of nutritional interventions in humans.
• MIP2: You will demonstrate understanding of the real-world applications of this discipline by engaging with an assignment that mirrors what a biological psychologist would report.
• MIP3: You will take charge of your own career development learning, through critical self-evaluation and reflection on the relevance of the module for career enhancement and future learning.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

How will I be assessed?

Formative Assessment
You will engage in group discussions and practical activities, your engagement with these will be formatively assessed throughout the module (MK1; MK2; MIP1).

Summative Assessment
1. A 3000 word, 2 part assignment worth 90% of the module mark. This assignment is representative of a report completed by a real-world biological psychologist requiring the student to argue for the efficacy of a plant-based intervention (part 1) and then to design a paradigm to test its effects in humans (part 2). (MK1; MK2;MIP1;MIP2).
2. The second assessment is a self-reflective account in which you will be asked to consider how this module has impacted on your employability and future career (MIP3). This will be worth 10% of the module mark (500 words).

Formative feedback will be provided within the workshops and individual, written, summative feedback will be provided on your submitted assignment.

Formative feedback will be provided within the workshops and individual, written, summative feedback will be provided on your submitted assignment.

Formal feedback on the reflection will be provided by each student’s personal guidance tutor at an individual meeting, arranged by the student.

You will be required to arrange a tutorial with your personal guidance tutor for formal feedback on your reflection.





Module abstract

The aim of this research-informed module is to provide you with an understanding of the psychobiological effects of diet, and dietary components, in humans. We begin by understanding the basics of nutrition and its role in health status, through to examining the role of nutrition, and nutritional interventions, on aspects of brain function and behaviour. The module is predominantly lecture-based but in the final few weeks we also have workshops where you will visit the Brain Performance and Nutrition Research Centre (BPNRC) lab and work on skills pertinent to the assessment- for which you will gain formative feedback. This module is summatively assessed by two assignments; the first is a two part assignment based on a report you would complete as a nutrition-focused biological psychologist; the second is a reflective report.

Course info

UCAS Code C800

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full time or 4 years full time with optional study abroad year

Department Psychology

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2020

Fee Information

Module Information

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