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Unit information: Principles of Pharmacology 2A - Pharmacology of the Nervous System in 2018/19

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing and student choice.

Unit name Principles of Pharmacology 2A - Pharmacology of the Nervous System
Unit code PHPH20011
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Steve Fitzjohn
Open unit status Not open

Either Pharmacology 1A or Mechanisms of Drug Action 1A



School/department School of Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience
Faculty Faculty of Biomedical Sciences


This unit addresses the basic mechanisms of drug action, with a primary focus on Neuropharmacology. Major topics include: drug-receptor interactions; the pharmacological investigation of ion channels; central synaptic transmission; the pharmacology of the major classes of drugs affecting normal and abnormal central nervous function.


At the end of this unit students should be able to explain the basic principles of pharmacodynamics (how drugs act on the body), how the structural features required for drug-receptor interactions can be determined, understand how drugs modify the actions of major families of ion channels, describe the key features of neurotransmission at the skeletal neuromuscular junction and the effect of drugs on this system, describe the major neurotransmitter pathways in the central nervous system and their modification by drugs, understand the concepts of tolerance and physical dependence, explain how drugs are used to treat a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of the unit, students should be able to:

  • Give accounts and demonstrate clear understanding of the mechanisms of the interactions of drugs with the nervous system;
  • Synthesise, understand, manage and summarise information from a number of sources;
  • Carry out experiments guided by worksheets;
  • Interpret and manipulate scientific data;
  • Read and understand scientific literature;
  • Communicate clearly in writing and orally;
  • Work effectively as part of a team;
  • Use IT facilities for data handling and presentation of written work;
  • Manage own time effectively;
  • Plan projects and problem solve.

Teaching details

Lectures (38)

Practicals (10x3hrs)

Small group tutorials (4)

e-learning (ebiolabs, pre- and post-practical assignments; CALs)

Assessment Details

The final mark for each Pharmacology Level 2 unit is made up as follows:

  • Written papers 75%
  • Practicals 15%
  • Tutorial work 10%

Please note also that the final marks from your level 2 Pharmacology Units together with the final marks from your other level 2 units will contribute 25% of the total marks for your Final Pharmacology Honours degree mark at the end of Year 3.

Reading and References

Essential Reading

Rang and Dale’s Pharmacology, (Eighth Edition, 2015), Rang HP, Ritter JM, Flower RJ & Henderson G, Elsevier Churchill Livingstone, UK. Electronic version is available via the library catalogue website.

Further Reading

Goodman and Gilman’s The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics (Twelfth Edition, 2011), ed. Brunton LL, McGraw-Hill Medical, London. You can consult this book in the library; 11th edition also available.

Medical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Fourth Edition, 2014), Waller DG, Sampson AP, Renwick AG, Hillier K, Saunders Elsevier, Edinburgh. Section 5 – The Nervous System. Contains practice questions at the end of each chapter.

Basic & Clinical Pharmacology (Eleventh Edition, 2009), ed. BG Katzung, Lange Medical Books, New York. Contains a lot of clinically-orientated material; Section V – Drugs that act in the central nervous system; electronic version is available online via the library catalogue website.

Medical Pharmacology at a Glance (Seventh edition, 2012), Neal MJ, Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken.

A revision aide, not a complete textbook