PY3RCD-Reward Dysfunction in Clinical Disorders

Module Provider: Psychology
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Pre-requisites: PY2RM Research Methods and Data Analysis
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Ciara McCabe


Type of module:

Summary module description:

Reward Dysfunction in Clinical Disorders 


The aim of this option is to enable students to explore, in depth, the nature of reward processing in the human brain and how this is affected in clinical disorders. The option aims to give students experience of critical evaluation of existing research and theoretical perspectives into the identification of neurobiological biomarkers within the psychiatry literature; to help them develop the ability to study independently; to give them experience of current research being undertaken in the department.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module the student will be able to:

1.Critically analyse the need for biomarker discovery in psychiatry. 

2. Critically evaluate how we currently understand psychiatric disorders and their treatment. 

3. Debate the evidence for and against the current classification systems in psychiatry.

Additional outcomes:
Students will gain experience from participating in evaluative discussions of research and theory in large and small groups. The module additionally provides an opportunity for students to improve either their essay-writing skills or their ability to work as part of a team to present an argument in an oral presentation format.

Outline content:

In this module we will discuss how clinical psychiatric disorders are currently classified and the problems this poses. We will discuss how disorders have been examined with the use of neuroimaging (emotion processing- negative bias). We will discuss issues surrounding the use of neural reward processing (positive processing) as a target for psychiatric disorder research. We will discuss how we define reward processing and consider some of the issues associated with assessing subjective reports in psychiatric disorder research compared with neurobiological measures. We will look at the effects of current pharmacological treatments on the reward response on the human brain. The focus will be on how we might be able to use human experimental models for the development of more specific drug treatments for disorders such as depression and eating disorders. We will discuss the benefits and pitfalls of human psychopharmacological fMRI studies and the direction needed to address these issues.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The course will include a variety of learning methods during seminars including interactive discussions, practical activities and student presentations. During the course of the module, students will prepare a poster presentation.  

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 14 1
Guided independent study 85
Total hours by term 99.00 1.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 75
Written assignment including essay 25

Summative assessment- Examinations:
1.5 hours

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

This module is assessed through coursework (25%) and a final exam (75%). The 1.5-hour Summer Exam will require students to answer 1 essay question on topics covered in the module. Coursework will comprise a poster presentation.

Formative assessment methods:

Students will be provided the opportunity to receive feedback on up to two essay plans in preparation for the final examination.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-assessment is by re-examination in August/September

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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