Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience - MSc
Connecting the sciences of the brain (neurosciences) with the sciences of the mind (cognition), this MSc draws on our world-leading expertise in Psychology and Life Sciences. We consider how the brain and broader nervous system function at a biological and psychological level, from a human development and behavioural perspective.
Month of entry
Mode of study
- Full time, Part time
Fees for 2023/24 academic year
- UK - Full time £10,000 per year. Part time £5,500 per year.
International - £18,800 per year.
Duration of study
- One year full time, two years part time, up to five years modular
Please note: this course is no longer accepting applications from international students for September 2023 entry
Why study Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience at Keele University?
Designed specifically to enable you to specialise in cognition and cognitive neuroscience, our MSc explores some of the most exciting challenges facing the scientific and clinical communities – how the brain and nervous system relate to human consciousness, decision making, attention, perception, memory, motor skills and more.
You will engage in research methods training, learning to design experiments, collect data using neuroscience methods, such as EEG (electroencephalogram), and analyse it using appropriate statistical methods. Familiarising you with contemporary issues in cognition and cognitive neuroscience, you'll be in a position to progress to further study, for example, Clinical Psychology training or a PhD, or pursue professional roles, such as a data analyst or technical consultant.
Bridging the disciplines of psychology and neuroscience, you will learn from world-leading researchers across two of Keele’s academic Schools, whose broad and diverse expertise spans cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, neuroscience, neural engineering, neurobiology, molecular biology, biomedical science and even zoology. They will share news about their cutting-edge research through research-led teaching and our research seminar series.
The research apprenticeship and dissertation provide two opportunities to broaden or deepen your contemporary research experience, depending on personal preferences or professional interests. Working closely with relevant specialists, you can choose a different focus for each project or master one specific area. Dissertation topics chosen by past students have, for example, examined how to decode different types of mental images from patterns of brain activity, eye-movement behaviour in real-world scene processing, recognition memory in brain-damaged patients and the effect of alcohol hangover on response inhibition.
Teaching is very much linked to practice, capitalising on our state-of-the-art facilities, expertise and strong industry connections.
Wet and dry lab work covers everything from EEG, eye tracking and brain stimulation, to computational modelling and case demonstrations of neuropsychological patients.
What you will learn
The world’s understanding of cognition and cognitive neuroscience has progressed rapidly in recent years with more computational modelling of behaviour and more precise mapping of brain circuits, improved imaging techniques and new sensor technologies to better monitor behaviour and response.
On this course, you will consider the different, complex ways in which the mind and body process, react and interact to various physical and emotional stimuli, consciously and unconsciously, voluntarily and involuntarily. This includes studying structural and functional brain differences between individuals and clinical populations, for example, brain injury and repair, as well as predicting cognitive performance in complex real-world situations and understanding theories of perception, attention, memory and other cognitive processes.
You will learn to measure objective responses (for instance, response times and eye movements, measured with high-precision devices) and subjective responses (for instance, ratings and post-recognition judgments), as well as event-related potentials (ERP) - the measured brain response that is the direct result of a specific sensory, cognitive, or motor event.
You will be taught by multidisciplinary staff involved in an exciting and diverse portfolio of research projects. These range from using EEG and eye tracking to investigate how our visual system makes sense of ambiguous images (e.g., face/vase) and real-world visual scenes, to the development of implantable materials to promote repair following spinal cord injury. Other research expertise includes physical and emotional states, visual and auditory perception, memory, trust, swearing, cognitive development, ageing, and neurological disorders.
Other courses you may find interesting include:
"The Advanced Cognitive Neuroscience Research Methods module gave me an opportunity to learn about a wide range of neuroimaging methods. This included hands-on data collection with EEG and TMS systems as well as data analysis sessions in Matlab."
The MSc Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience can be studied as either a one-year full-time or two-year part-time course, with a September start date. It also possible to study more flexibly part-time on a modular basis, accumulating degree credits by taking individual modules over a period of maximum of five years.
You will complete 180 credits to obtain the master’s qualification, comprising eight modules. For full-time students, six core and two optional modules are spread over two semesters (120 credits in total), while the Dissertation is worked on throughout the duration of the course (60 credits). You will agree the topic for your Dissertation with your supervisor during Semester 1. Part-time students take 90 credits per year for two years with the dissertation taken in the second year.
There are two interim awards available, depending on how many modules have been successfully completed: a Postgraduate Certificate for any two modules (60 credits); and a Postgraduate Diploma for all four taught modules (120 credits).
Semester one core modules
PSY-40097 Topics in Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience (15 credits, Semester 1)
Taking inspiration from published research papers, you will engage in lively ‘journal club’ discussion sessions to familiarise yourself with cutting-edge, contemporary issues and research in the fields of cognitive neuroscience, psychology and life sciences. Past topics have included fear, fear conditioning and optogenetics, for example, and brain injury, ageing and cognitive reserve.
PSY-40095 Advanced Research Skills, Design, and Analysis (15 credits, Semester 1)
Through hands-on workshops and interactive sessions, we prepare you to plan, conduct and analyse your own research. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, you will learn to generate research questions, translate these into the design of your research, appropriately analyse data, and report your findings by writing a structured lab report, using standard (APA) formatting. You can tailor your studies by focusing on the methods, design and analysis most useful to you.
PSY-40053 Advanced Cognitive Neuroscience Research Methods (15 credits, Semester 1)
You will deepen your knowledge and understanding of contemporary methods in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience research, such as neuroimaging, eye tracking, and brain stimulation. Through lab demonstrations and practicals, you will learn to design, conduct, and critically appraise research using these methods. You will gain hands-on experience using software tools and equipment for experiment control, data collection and data analysis, such as PsychoPy, Matlab, R, and JASP.
Semester two core modules
PSY-40093 Clinical Neuropsychology and Applied Cognition (15 credits, Semester 2)
You will develop an understanding of how cognition and cognitive neuroscience is applied in everyday life. For example, in clinical settings to aid decision making for the diagnosis and treatment of patients with neurological disorders and symptoms, or to gauge the reliability of memory in eyewitness testimony. Topics include clinical neuropsychology, neurotoxicology, and performance enhancement through brain stimulation.
PSY-40103 Advanced Computational and Statistical Approaches to Behaviour (15 credits, Semester 2)
Understanding behaviour is challenging because of the complexity of the mind, sheer volume of different situational and social influences, and individual differences amongst people. You will be introduced to and gain hands-on use of various advanced computational and statistical approaches used to predict behaviour and test scientific theories. These include, for example, multivariate methods, machine learning, cognitive modelling, Bayesian analysis, and agent-based modelling.
PSY-40038 Research Apprenticeship in Psychology (15 credits, Semester 2)
You will work with staff as part of their research teams, gaining valuable experience of working on an active research project alongside an experienced research mentor. Apprenticeships are offered across a range of subjects, fields, and activities and represent the diverse expertise of our academic staff. These will support and extend your research skills. Projects could involve designing and preparing full or partial research reports, systematic literature reviews, grant proposals and ethics applications, with the real possibility that research findings may eventually be published.
PSY-40045 Dissertation (60 credits, preparation in Semester 1 & 2, writing up over summer)
You will undertake an independent project in your chosen field of interest under the supervision of an experienced member of staff, developing in-depth experience of research methods in your specific research area. Supervisors are available from the School of Psychology, School of Life Sciences or the School of Computer Science and Mathematics, which broaden the scope considerably when choosing your potential research focus. The dissertation is your chance to apply the skills and knowledge gained throughout the course to design, conduct, analyse and report an appropriate piece of empirical research, demonstrating a level of knowledge and understanding far beyond what you have learned in class. Previous students have studied the role of brain oscillations in perception of visual illusions, for example, and impulse control difficulties in Parkinson's disease. Others have focused on how we make predictions about what we will and won't remember, and questioned how we should measure subjective experience of recognition.
You will study two additional 15-credit modules, one in the first semester, and another in the second semester. Optional modules are selected at the beginning of the academic year, giving you greater flexibility to tailor your course.
Semester 1 options:
- PSY-40089 Psychology Placement (Semester 1 or 2).
This module is a valuable personal and career development opportunity as it may allow you to relate your learning to actual research or practice in your chosen professional setting, and it will place you in a strong position post-graduation. We will draw on our existing collaborations with external organisations to help you find meaningful placement opportunities. Alternatively, we can support you to find a placement with an organisation which you identify yourself. You will gain authentic work experience in a relevant cognition, cognitive science or neuroscience environment. As an example, and depending on availability, this could include a different academic setting, a private or government research laboratory, a hospital or companies involved in data analysis or science communication. The placement can be either based at the organisation's facilities or be digitally based; therefore, you could take a placement in an organisation which you might not be able to commute to.
- PSY-40107 Enhancing Reproducibility in Research
A 2016 survey of over 1500 researchers by the prominent journal Nature found that 90% believed there is a "replication crisis" in research. The factors leading to a lack of reproducibility are complex and many, ranging from the behaviour of individual researchers through to the incentive structures within academic publishing and funding. This module will provide an in-depth exploration of the main threats to reproducible research together with concrete solutions to counter these. The module will also provide hands-on experience of coding with an open-source statistical programming language and how to create a fully reproducible report of quantitative data analysis. Note that no prior programming experience is required. The module will leave you well-positioned to enhance the trustworthiness and quality of the research you conduct.
Semester 2 options:
- PSY-40089 Psychology Placement (Semester 1 or 2). See description above.
- PSY-40083 Using Research to Influence Policy and Practice
You will explore how research can be used to influence policy and practice, across a range of settings such as government, charity sector, and education. Gaining hands-on experience of writing for a policy setting, you will be tasked with writing a policy brief on a policy related to a health issue of your choice in a similar style as the POST notes produced by the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology.
MSc in Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience
Reasons to study MSc in Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience at Keele
ACADEMIC ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
This course is open to graduates with a first or upper second-class degree in psychology, neuroscience, linguistics (or a cognate discipline with some psychology study) or equivalent.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE ENTRY REQUIREMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum of 6.0 in each subtest.
If you do not meet the English language requirements, the University offers a range of English language preparation programmes.
Please note, if your course offers a January start date, the January 2023 start date falls in the 2022/23 academic year. Please see the 2022/23 academic year fees for the relevant fees for starting this course in January 2023.
Planning your funding
It's important to plan carefully for your funding before you start your course. Please be aware that not all postgraduate courses and not all students are eligible for the UK government postgraduate loans and, in some cases, you would be expected to source alternative funding yourself. If you need support researching your funding options, please contact our Financial Support Team.
We are committed to rewarding excellence and potential. Please visit our scholarships and bursaries webpage for more information.
The advanced research and practical skills you will be able to demonstrate as a graduate of this programme will stand you in good stead for a wide range of careers in research, academia (research or teaching), military or industry – in fact anywhere there is a need to understand and predict behaviour, thought or performance.
Cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists conduct research and work in areas as diverse as user interface design, human factors and ergonomics, artificial intelligence, computer-human interaction, linguistic analysis, speech synthesis and voice recognition, product testing, sales and neuromarketing, behavioural science, government departments, and biotechnology.
Several students join us with a desire to work with people with brain injuries, in support roles or with charities. Some use their insight to follow the technology route, working for companies that develop the specialist computational software and equipment the profession uses. Others use our MSc programme as preparation for further studies (such as a PhD) or further training in Clinical Neuroscience or Clinical Neuropsychology.
There is always the option of consultancy and policy development for the public, private and third sector, as well in the emerging fields of behavioural and data science.
Should you wish to continue your studies, you will be well placed to pursue PhD study in psychology and/or neuroscience. The course is also excellent preparation for further clinical psychology or neuropsychology training should you wish to enter a medical setting long-term.
Roles you may find interesting:
- Researcher (in academia, industry, government)
- Behavioural scientist
- Data analyst
- Data scientist
- Brain injury support worker
- Assistant Psychologist (NHS)
- Technical Consultant
- Clinical Neuropsychologist (after further training)
- Clinical Psychologist (after further training)
Teaching, learning and assessment
How you will be taught
Our teaching and learning strategy is wide-ranging and innovative, seeking to give you a rich learning environment that draws actively upon leading edge research, as well as current professional practice. It includes traditional lectures, workshops and small group tutorials, as well as lab-based demonstrations and practicals. We aim to teach you the theory behind cognitive neuroscience methods, but more importantly you will graduate with experience of delivering them too.
All our psychology MSc programmes are designed to prepare you for careers in practice, research or academia, including PhD study or further clinical training. The research apprenticeship, dissertation and optional placement provide ample opportunity to tailor your knowledge and skills development, and gain relevant research and work experience before you graduate.
We will introduce you to the latest tools, techniques and technologies used in clinical, healthcare, academic and pharmaceutical settings. You will gain hands-on experience of various techniques, including EEG, brain stimulation (e.g., TMS and tDCS), eye tracking and clinical psychometric assessments, as well as advanced computational and statistical approaches.
The taught modules run during the first two semesters. The Dissertation module runs across all three semesters: the supervisor and topic are agreed during Semester 1 and the dissertation is completed during the summer.
- Semester 1 runs from the end of September to the end of January, with an assessment period in January.
- Semester 2 runs from the last week of January to the middle of June, with the assessment period in June.
- Semester 3 runs from June to the end of September.
How you will be assessed
Assessment is varied and includes the use of group and individual reports, essays, presentations and practical projects. Most modules combine multiple forms of assessment.
Where possible, assessment is designed to reflect the workplace, including specialist and transferable general skills, such as team working, idea generation, critical thinking, problem solving, meeting deadlines and so on. We may ask you to demonstrate specific skills, for example, in simultaneous eye tracking, via a skills assessment, or you could be asked to prepare a research briefing, literature review or respond to a brief patient referral.
Several members of our staff are internationally recognised for their research, impact and teaching innovation. Students tell us that the opportunity to learn from and conduct research alongside knowledgeable staff with such wide-ranging expertise is a huge part of this course’s appeal. This is because our teaching team is drawn from the School of Psychology and the School of Life Sciences (Neuroscience).
Most of the psychology staff are members of the Cognition, Brain and Behaviour Research Group,which focuses on core themes such as perception, attention and memory, incorporating various behaviour measurement tools in their work, including eye tracking and EEG. We also study patients with neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
Staff in Life sciences, on the other hand, can support projects involving more molecular or cellular approaches to neuroscience. For example, their research involves studying long-term brain degeneration with ageing, how nervous system regenerates after injury, or the role of genetics in psychiatric conditions.
- Dr Emma Smillie, Teaching Fellow (Psychology) – Emma is an experimental psychologist who joined Keele in 2022. Emma obtained her PhD at Liverpool Hope University. Her research interests are in visual search, face learning and unfamiliar face perception.
- Dr Chris Adams, Lecturer (Life sciences) – After obtaining his PhD in Cellular and Neural Engineering at Keele in 2015, Chris spent two years as a Research Fellow before becoming a Lecturer in Neuroscience. His research aims are to investigate a range of nanotechnology platforms which could improve effectiveness of neural cell transplantation therapies, whilst maintaining a high safety profile. He works within the Keele Neuroscience and Neurology Group.
- Dr Donna Berry, Teaching Fellow (Psychology) – Donna's main research interests centre around emotion processing, visual attention, and policing, with a particular focus on how these may differ amongst people on the autism spectrum. She joined Keele in 2012 having previously worked at the Open University and Northumbria University.
- Dr Joseph Brooks, Senior Lecturer (Psychology) – Joseph's research interests include visual perception and attention and the neural processes that give rise to them. His work focuses on perceptual organisation processes, such as figure-ground organisation and perceptual grouping, which play a role in determining the structure, shape, and depth that we perceive in visual scenes. An emerging strand of his work focuses on methods issues especially those related to safe and powerful EEG/ERP quantification.
- Professor Nicola Edelstyn, Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychology and Rehabilitation – Nicola was awarded her PhD in visual neurophysiology from Keele and went onto complete a series of postdoctoral fellowships at a number of universities before returning. Her current research includes aspects of memory in different clinical populations (anteromedial thalamic lesion patients, Parkinson’s, major depressive disorder). Nicola's current external roles include being President of the British Neuropsychological Society, of which she is also a former honorary secretary, and Associate Editor of European Neurology.
- Dr Stas Galzewski, Lecturer (Life Sciences) – Stas worked in several scientific institutions in Poland and universities in the United States before moving to the UK. His research aims to understand how experience induces neuronal plasticity in the neocortex and how this plasticity is maintained. He is also interested in the mechanisms underlying simple forms of learning that may be induced in the barrel cortex with use of whiskers, synaptic changes driven by circadian rhythms and the consequences of demyelination.
- Dr Jim Grange, Senior Lecturer (Psychology) – Jim is an experimental cognitive psychologist, interested in cognitive control processes, the mechanisms that enable the human mind to control itself. He conducts fundamental research to understand cognitive control processes, and to then use this knowledge to tackle applied and clinical questions. He contributes to the editing of a number of academic journals: Frontiers in Cognitive Psychology; Nature's Scientific Reports; Collabra; and Frontiers in Cognitive Science.
- Dr Dmitry Kishkinev, Lecturer (Life Sciences) – Born and raised in Russia, Dmitry joined Keele as a Lecturer in Animal Behaviour and Behavioural Neuroscience in 2019. His current research focuses on three main themes: the sensory mechanisms of animal orientation and navigation; the neurosensory substrates and the proximate mechanisms of the animal’s magnetic sense; and the development and application of a versatile, affordable and scalable telemetry systems to monitor movement and activity of animals in the wild.
- Dr Ella Maysami, Lecturer (Life Sciences) – Ella has experience in clinical research (prospective) and translational neuroscience (drug discovery). Her research interest lies in regeneration and repair, models of disease in neuroscience, neuroinflammation, companion diagnostic biomarkers, clinical/case studies, population health studies, systematic reviews, and meta-analysis.
- Dr Eunju Jenny Shin, Lecturer (Life Sciences) – Eunju joined Keele as a Lecturer in Neuroscience in 2021. She previously worked at the world-renowned Wallenberg Neuroscience Center in Lund University, Sweden, where Professor Anders Björklund pioneered cell replacement therapy for Parkinson’s disease. Her research utilises a wide range of techniques such as human pluripotent stem cell differentiation, CRISPR interference, single cell transcriptomics, proteomics, genetic analyses and various in vitro cellular assays.
- Dr Sara Spotorno, Lecturer (Psychology; School Director of MSc programmes) – Sara previously worked as a Clinical Psychologist and Neuropsychologist and as an Associate Teaching Fellow, before pursuing her academic path as a researcher. After several Postdoctoral Research Associate positions in France and the UK, she joined Keele in 2019. Her current research projects include: perceptual, cognitive and emotional factors in visual processing, attention and memory ; eye movements; and the functional specialisation of the cerebral hemispheres.
- Dr Richard Stephens, Senior Lecturer (Psychology) – Having been involved with Psychology for more than three decades, Richard has developed an international reputation for research on alcohol and emotional language. His research on the benefits of swearing for pain tolerance and for performing physical tasks is very well known and has been portrayed numerous times in the media. Sponsored by Nurofen, his most recent paper (2020) assessed whether we can mimic the beneficial effects of swearing on pain using newly invented swear words.
- Dr Chris Street, Senior lecturer (Psychology) – Chris joined Keele University in 2021, having worked previously at the University of Huddersfield and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. His work sits at the intersection of human cognition and psychology and law to understand how people decide when and why to trust or distrust information. This has included working with national organisations to create evidence-based interventions to reduce susceptibility to phishing and smishing scams.
- Dr Simon Trent, Lecturer (Life Sciences) – Simon has developed an extensive repertoire of research interests in behavioural and molecular neuroscience. He has published primary research and reviews in areas of hippocampal memory, genomics, and neuropharmacology. Current research explores how synaptic ‘risk genes’ contribute towards memory and psychiatric illness in people.
- Dr Helen Williams, Senior Lecturer (Psychology) – Helen joined Keele in 2013, having previously conducted postdoctoral research and teaching in North America. Her research interests are metacognitive awareness, recognition memory, the Remember-Know paradigm, and cognitive ageing and associated issues. This mostly deals with higher order cognitive processes, specifically the judgments people can make when learning information or retrieving material from memory.
- Dr Marta Woloszynowska-Fraser, Lecturer (Life Sciences) – Marta is interested in how interneurons in different brain regions contribute to neuronal firing and the excitation/inhibition balance. Her PhD focused on the behaviour of prefrontal interneurons in relation to schizophrenia. Prior to Keele, she spent time in the United States, working at the Laboratory of Behavioral Neuroscience (LBN) and the Neurocognitive Aging Section of the National Institute on Aging, in Baltimore, USA, as well as teaching Biology at a local state university.
Based in the Dorothy Hodgkin building at the centre of campus, the School of Psychology offers a thriving and dynamic environment with state-of-the-art teaching and research facilities, and plenty of spaces for socialising and studying.
The recently refurbished 230-seater lecture theatre is one of the largest on campus. For independent or small group study, you have the choice of a larger communal room with computers or smaller study rooms you can book.
When it comes to specialist facilities, at Keele, you really are spoiled for choice. Our brain electrophysiology lab has been kitted out to perform EEG experiments on adults and children, as well as simultaneous eye tracking, pupillometry, and galvanic skin response (GSR) measurements. We have a dedicated eye tracking laboratory, with an EyeLink 1000 Plus (fixed eye tracking) and Pupil Labs and SMI ET glasses (mobile eye tracking), and a dedicated Virtual Reality lab, equipped with a HTC Vive VR Headset, which includes eye-movement recording as well.
You will also have access to brain stimulation equipment used for transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), direct current stimulation (tDCS), Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS) and a Magstim Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator (TMS). Moreover, we have two video observation suites, both feature two-way mirrors and are equipped with video and audio recording equipment.
The School of Life Sciences has invested £45m in the creation of state-of-the-art science facilities on campus, including new research and teaching laboratories. In 2019, the opening of the David Attenborough Laboratories greatly increased our teaching and research areas, providing two additional state-of-the-art teaching laboratories with space for 120 students between them.
Students can access scientific equipment, such as fluorescence microscopes, electron microscopes, tools for molecular biology (e.g., PCR, western blotting), electrophysiology apparatus, and behavioural equipment housed in the Biomedical Services Unit.