Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Robotics MSc

Start date
1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught

More detail


Please note that this course will not be running for 2024 entry. Instead the content of this MSc will be covered by the MSc Cognitive Neuroimaging and Data Science.             Apply Now

Our Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Robotics MSc provides flexible interdisciplinary research and access to state-of-the-art equipment for brain imaging, electrophysiological recording, psychophysics, advanced data analysis, computational modelling and robotic systems.

This MSc course aims to integrate two active and rapidly developing fields, computational neuroscience and cognitive robotics, to generate innovative strategies and solutions for scientific problems and technological limitations.

From modelling human cognition to programming robots to act in their environment, this course crosses the boundary between several disciplines, including biology, neuroscience, psychology, and computer science. 

The CNCR MSc course is highly interdisciplinary encompassing psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, computational modelling, neuroimaging, robotics, and patient rehabilitation. The Course is designed for those who are interested in applying knowledge of neural systems, brain function, and modeling to research in human cognition, perception, sensory and motor systems as well as the design of bio-inspired and biologically plausible robotic systems. It has a strong research focus with hands-on modules and practical applications. The course is aimed at both students from psychology/neuroscience with a strong quantitative background and at students from computer science and physics that want to apply their knowledge to neuroscience.

Programme organisation

A significant part of the CNCR MSc Course involves being part of a research group and conducting an independent research project. For this, you will be assigned to a supervisor and supervise the research project. Your research project is written up as the masters dissertation and counts for one third of your degree.  Exposure to a different research group is intended to broaden research experience and widen research skills repertoire.

The course is organised jointly through the Schools of PsychologyComputer ScienceSport, Exercise and Rehabilitation  Sciences and Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering.

Your choice of course modules will be individualised and agreed between you and your supervisor. The goal is to develop your knowledge and skills to allow you to carry out your research project in Semester 3 while learning a wide range of neuroscience, computation, and experimental method topics. Several modules rely on Matlab programming skills for their practical exercises, which could be used also in the placement and project. Students who don't have a sufficient programming knowledge will be required to attend a programming course in Semester 1. 

You will be taught to devise a research plan, and will read and comment on scientific articles. You will choose the topic for your research project with the help of a research proposal module. The module allows you to participate in CNCR seminars, journal clubs, and lab activities to have sufficient knowledge to carry out the research project. This will expose you to cutting edge research and labs. 

For more module information see the Modules section.

See MSc CNCR frequently asked questions (PDF 78KB)

I chose CNCR because it's an interdisciplinary course that allowed me to explore and combine my two areas of interest: computer science and brain science. You become comfortable thinking outside the box in interdisciplinary research; for example, I learnt to use computational models to tackle questions in neuroscience that are intractable with traditional lab techniques. My Masters helped me get a job as an R&D Engineer with the BBC, as in the interview I was able to demonstrate programming skills, but also talk about exciting applications of brain research in fields relevant to the BBC, like user experience.

Zachary Datson, MSc Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Robotics alumnus

Why study this course?

This course provides a flexible inter-disciplinary research apprenticeship, suitable for those seeking to begin commercial or postgraduate research.

You will have access to state-of-the-art equipment for brain imaging, electrophysiological recording, psychophysics, advanced data analysis, computational modelling and robotic systems, supervised by internationally leading researchers.


The taught modules and research training will provide hands-on expertise and knowledge to successfully perform two short research placements and a longer independent research project, which will be closely supervised by a relevant member of academic staff.

Taught modules cover relevant aspects of cognitive and brain function, including brain imaging and robotics. A wide range of optional modules are available so that the taught modules are tailored to your interests and previous knowledge. These modules are intended to enhance either the neuroscience, the computational or the robotics components of the course.

Modules include: 

  • Mind, Brain and Models
  • Proposing Research in Psychology
  • Practical Research Skills 

Optional Modules:

  • Intelligent Robotics
  • Advanced Robotics
  • Robot Vision
  • Introduction to Computational Methods
  • Software Workshop 1
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Application of Electrophysiological Approaches in Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Introduction to Neuroscientific Methods
  • Neural Computation
  • Foundations of Data Science

Students also undertake a supervised research project, leading to a 6,000-word research dissertation. See some of the recent projects undertaken by students on the course.


 This course is not accepting entry for 2024/25.

How To Apply

Please note that this course will not be running for 2024 entry. Instead the content of this MSc will be covered by the MSc Cognitive Neuroimaging and Data Science.             Apply Now

Our Standard Requirements

Applicants should have obtained at least a 2:1 Honours degree in a relevant subject (eg, Psychology, Neuroscience, Computer Science, Physics, Engineering or Mathematics). 

You must have a strong interest in learning in an interdisciplinary environment and must have substantial quantitative skills. Programming skills in Matlab, Java, and/or C  are desirable but not mandatory .  Note however that some research projects (e.g. robotics) require excellent programming skills. Students with very good undergraduate degrees from relevant backgrounds are encouraged to apply. These include psychology, neuroscience, computer science, physics, engineering and mathematics. Given the diversity of the applicants and the interdisciplinary nature of the program, all applications will be looked at on an individual basis. For this, we request that in your personal statement you provide one paragraph that describes your experience and qualifications in at least one of the following five areas:

  1. neuroscience
  2. experimental investigation and scientific method
  3. programming
  4. mathematics/quantitative
  5. robotics

Knowledge of every area is not necessary, here we want to ensure that you will be able to learn and effectively use the topics on the course.

In addition, please state the names of three academics within the School of Psychology and/or Computer Science that, given the opportunity, you would like to work with.  Please note: If you are offered a place on the MSc, we will contact you about identifying relevant, available supervisors before the course starts.  When allocating a supervisor, we will take your preferences into account, but there are a number of other factors we consider, so your supervisor may not be one of the academics you have listed. 

Learn more about entry requirements.

International Requirements

International Students

English language requirements

Standard English language requirements apply (IELTS: 6.5 overall with no less than 6.0 in any band)

  • IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band
  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 20 in Listening, 22 in Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) including online: PTE Academic 67 with no less than 64 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced – minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

Material is delivered through lectures, workshops and hands-on training in cutting edge laboratories. 

Some of the key features of this course and areas of focus for student learning include:

  • Coverage of brain and cognitive function, including brain imaging
  • Introduction to robotics
  • Hands-on training in state-of-the-art laboratories
  • Detailed research project cutting across disciplines 


Assessment Methods

Most of the course credits are gained through reports on research-related activities. A research placement in Semester 2 and a longer piece of individual research during Semester 3 lead to the masters dissertation, which constitutes the majority of the final degree.

In addition to progress reviews, your primary supervisor will be involved in devising assessments to help you develop useful skills. They will also be able to provide personalised feedback on your work (including your research proposal, research placement, transferable skills, and research project).

A large proportion of modules include practical lab activities that require programming or experimental reports.

You will receive training in computational and research methods, and will gain an overview of current research in neuroscience and robotics. The programme will prepare you to go onto high quality PhD programmes, leading to work in a range of fields from advanced robotics to cognitive neuroscience.

Many of our students receive job offers before they graduate. Recent students have found employment working and training in an IT consultancy; software engineering at Google; and setting up startup companies to develop IT products inspired by human cognition.

Several of our students receive PhD offers before completing the course; one of our recent students will be studying for a PhD in computational neuroscience at University College Dublin with funding secured via a postgraduate award from the Irish Research Council. Others choose to stay at Birmingham for PhD study. The course gives you an opportunity to showcase your talent in the School of Psychology and the School of Computer Science, and to increase your chances of pursuing an academic career within the University of Birmingham.

Immediately after finishing CNCR I managed to land a job where I am working as both a data scientist and a software engineer. My employers were very impressed at the achievements I'd made in various projects throughout the course as well as the skills and coding etiquette I'd learnt in the course. I would strongly recommend the course to anyone with an interest in both psychology and coding.

Joseph Harper, MSc Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Robotics alumnus