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Unit information: Diseases of the nervous system in 2021/22

Unit name Diseases of the nervous system
Unit code SOCS30004
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Denize Atan
Open unit status Not open




School/department Bristol Medical School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

The nervous system has a role in nearly every aspect of our health and daily activities. It regulates many homeostatic mechanisms in the body without our conscious involvement, such as our body temperature, heart rate and breathing. It also controls our interaction with the world through our senses, sensory perception, movement, and speech. Everything that we learn and remember in our lifetimes depends on the nervous system. Consequently, diseases of the nervous system can have devastating effects on our activities of daily living.

This unit will introduce some of the most common diseases of the nervous system and will give an overview of research into strategies that are being developed to prevent, slow disease progression or to treat these neurological disorders. The content will cover the basic biology of common neurodevelopmental, neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory disorders, current therapeutic strategies and pre-clinical/clinical applications of experimental research. As an integral part of the central nervous system, diseases of the eye will be included in this unit.

The main topics that will be described in this unit will include: 1) Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and experimental therapeutics; 2) the pathology of Parkinson’s disease and clinical therapies; 3) multiple sclerosis; 4) neonatal brain disorders; 5) common sight-threatening eye diseases. An overarching theme of this unit is the clinical application of stem cells or novel regenerative therapies, such as gene therapy, to these topics.

The unit aims to: (i) provide students with the fundamental knowledge of the basis of diseases of the nervous system, including neurodevelopmental, neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative disorders of the eye and brain; (ii) provide students with knowledge of new and emerging therapeutic approaches to treat these diseases of the eye and brain; (iii) provide students with an understanding of stem cell biology and how it can be used in regenerative medicine and to model diseases of the eye and brain.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit, the students should be able to: (i) describe the underlying causes of key neurodegenerative, neurodevelopmental and neuroinflammatory disorders of the eye and brain and discuss recent research that contributes to understanding the pathophysiology of these diseases; (ii) discuss the basic principles and effectiveness of current and emerging therapeutic approaches for diseases of the eye and brain; (iii) describe how stem cells can generate new cells/tissues and critically appraise the utility of stem cells in modelling or treating diseases of the eye and brain.

Teaching Information

This unit is taught through lectures and tutorials (which may be online or face-to-face, where appropriate). Independent study: students are expected to study the recommended literature.

Assessment Information

The unit will be assessed by timed summative assessments in May/June. Students will be expected to answer 2 essay questions, which will assess their knowledge and critical understanding of the field, and their ability to gather information from the primary scientific literature.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. SOCS30004).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.