Brain Imaging: a Toolbox for Understanding the Human Mind


In the last 20 years a dazzling array of neuroimaging techniques have emerged which have enabled scientists to revolutionise our understanding of how the functional and structural organisation of the human brain gives rise to complex behaviour. This module will provide a comprehensive introduction into the key neuroimaging techniques and how they can be used to study human behavior and brain function in both health and disease.

In particular this course will provide an overview of the ability of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify the areas of the brain responsible for specific functions such as our movements, our memory and decision making, our emotions and determining how our senses allow us to see, hear, taste and smell. We will also cover other applications of magnetic resonance imaging such as to measure: brain structure, neuronal organization, brain size and the wiring of brain circuits that carry information between different regions; as well as how the brain's array of neurotransmitters play different roles in signal transmission, and how abnormalities in these chemicals can lead to brain malfunction.

The course will also introduce how electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) directly measure the signaling patterns of the brain's activity and reveal the precise timing of information flow, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of these methods compared to fMRI.

Finally we will discuss the use of electrical/magnetic brain stimulation techniques which are increasingly commonly used to probe brain function by either disrupting brain activity (TMS) or augmenting electrical signaling and observing the functional consequences (TDCS). 

Students will gain an understanding of how these techniques can be used, what different neurophysiological signals they measure, the strengths and weaknesses of each technique and the state-of-the-art applications of these tools in cognitive neuroscience.


  • 10 x 2 hour lectures
  • 2 x 2 hour seminar/discussion sessions
  • BUIC visit to observe fMRI
  • revision lecture and tutorial drop in sessions


Essay (40%): A 2000 word critical essay on a topic related to one of the lectures.

Summer Examination (60%): 2 hours. Part A: six compulsory short answer questions; Part B: one essay from a choice of three questions