Course Director: Prof Tim Andrews


Cognitive neuroscience aims to explain cognitive processes and behaviour in terms of the underlying brain mechanisms.  It is based on the belief that knowledge about the fundamental mechanisms of the nervous system can lead to a deeper understanding of complex mental functions such as memory, language, emotion, perception, attention and consciousness. Advances in brain imaging techniques have helped to fuel the growth of this new discipline in which data from neuroscience informs psychological theories and vice versa. The MSc is designed to show students how modern techniques in brain imaging can be used to ask questions about the way in which the brain and mind work.

To put it simply: how does the brain think?

Provided jointly by the Department of Psychology and the York Neuroimaging Centre (YNiC), the overarching aim of the MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience at York is to provide a bridge between undergraduate study and PhD research in cognitive neuroscience.  Modern brain imaging methods such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) allow researchers to measure changes in brain activity as people undertake different tasks. Through our specialist modules students gain hands on experience with fMRI and MEG, learning how to design, analyze and evaluate neuroimaging experiments.  Finally, students complete an extended empirical project supported by the state-of-the-art facilities at YNiC.

Core Modules

These provide a solid grounding in Research, Design & Statistics.

Specialist Modules

Specialist modules place neuroimaging in the wider context of cognitive neuroscientific research and introduce students to the principles of neuroimaging the design of neuroimaging experiments and specialist methods required for the analysis of neuroimaging data. These include:

  • Basic Principles in Neuroimaging introduces students to the basic principles that underlie the signals measured in fMRI and MEG
  • Data Analysis in Neuroimaging provides a practical understanding of how neuroimaging can be applied to different areas of experimental psychology.
  • Research Design in Neuroimaging introduces students to the key principles of experimental design in neuroimaging studies.
  • Topics in Cognitive Neuroscience demonstrates how neuroimaging has contributed to our understanding of different areas of psychology and shows how neuroimaging techniques complement other methods in cognitive neuroscience.
  • Programming in Neuroimaging provides an introduction to how programming can be used to generate and present experimental stimuli for neuroimaging experiments and for the analysis of neuroimaging data.

Empirical Project (MSc Requirement)

The Empirical Project enables students to participate in the design and implementation of a theoretically-motivated piece of pure or applied research in cognitive neuroscience providing hands-on training in advanced brain imaging or other cognitive neuroscientific methods. Topics are chosen so as to be timely and practicable within the relevant resource and time constraints. We regard it as important that the topic not only engages the interest and enthusiasm of the student, but is also a good match to the specialist expertise and knowledge of the supervisor. 

Many of our students' projects are published. Each year we offer projects on a wide variety of topics linked to faculty research interests, for example students have used fMRI to investigate the processing of emotional and social cues in faces, MEG to investigate brain mechanisms of memory for words and pictures,  and neuropsychological testing (in patients with brain damage) to investigate semantic memory.

Literature Review (Diploma Only)

The opportunity to work towards a Diploma qualification is offered to students whose work does not reach the standard of a MSc qualification. For these students, a literature review is required in place of an empirical project. The literature review aims to teach Diploma students to critically appraise and write about a specific issue in cognitive neuroscience.  Through this assignment, students will demonstrate an ability to think and write about an issue in their chosen field of study in an insightful and educated way.  The literature review takes place during the Summer Term.  The 6000 word final essay accounts for 100% of the Literature Review module mark.

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