How does the brain work? What are different parts of the brain for? If you want to know how to use an MRI scanner to answer these questions, and learn what neuroimaging has already taught us, this MSc is for you. Whether you want to pursue neuroimaging research, or simply become an expert in this important field of science, the Functional Neuroimaging MSc provides the skills and knowledge.
Functional brain imaging requires an understanding of current concepts in cognitive neuroscience, as well as a basic appreciation of the physics of magnetic resonance imaging and the mathematical and statistical foundations for data analysis. There has been a rapid development of functional imaging technology, with increased availability worldwide of high-resolution scanners for research and clinical applications. This growth has contributed to the need for improved education and training in functional imaging.
This programme, the first of its kind in the UK, provides a strong theoretical and practical introduction to the world of Neuroimaging research. The course is a good preparation for a PhD in functional brain imaging, or for working as part of a neuroimaging team with fMRI and/or other imaging modalities.
Modules are subject to variation and students are advised to check with the School on whether a particular module of interest will be running in their year of entry.
How has Neuroimaging increased our understanding of brain function? This module covers learning and memory, language and the brain, cerebral lateralization and specialization, the control of action, executive control and frontal lobes, emotional mechanisms, evolutionary perspectives, development, plasticity and consciousness.
Principles of Neuroimaging
This introduces Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Electroencephalography (EEG), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), Near Infra-Red Spectroscopy (NRS), Magnetoencephalography (MEG) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The module will focus especially on EEG and fMRI, considering MRI safety, MR signal generation, MR signal formation, contrast mechanisms and pulse sequences, neuronal to haemodynamic activity, BOLD FMRI, spatial and temporal properties of fMRI.
How do we design, conduct and analyse Neuroimaging experiments? How can we use this knowledge to evaluate other Neuroimaging studies? This module includes EEG equipment operation, using a Siemens TRIO 3T MRI scanner, experimental design, image processing, statistical analysis, statistical inference and data presentation.
Processing the information received by our eyes involves nearly half the cortex. In this module, we study the visual pathways and along the way consider a number of topics including: visual motion and the dorsal stream, biological motion, object recognition and the ventral stream, face recognition, disorders of vision, visual development, visual imagery, visual awareness, change blindness, visual attention, emotional vision and neuroaesthetics.
Under the supervision of one of the CCNI’s research team, students will conduct a functional imaging experiment. This could involve the in-house EEG or FMRI facilities.
The University's substantial investment in a 3T fMRI facility (jointly owned with Royal Holloway, Reading and Surrey Universities) is organised by the Centre for Cognition and Neuroimaging (CCNI). The Centre also has facilities for EEG and ERP imaging as well as experimental psychology and computational modelling. It includes a substantial team of neuroimaging experts. Staff involved in the course include:
Dr Justin O’Brien: "I study the properties of the human visual system as it develops from the level of visual behaviour down to the underlying brain structure responsible for visual perception. Using stimuli I developed at Brunel we can use the MRI scanner to locate for the first time the visual deficits we have found in autism, Asperger syndrome and dyspraxia. I also do a lot of research on motion perception, especially how we use the motion of faces. I am currently investigating the different processes involved in perceiving speech, identity and motion in general from facial motion"
Dr Adrian Williams: "My background is in neuroanatomy, and I use neuroimaging to study human vision in terms of the anatomy, function and organisation of the visual brain. Recently, for example, I have been looking at visual organization in dyslexia. I am also a great fan of abstract art, and have been researching how the brain perceives dynamic motion information represented in static art images"
Professor Michael Wright: "Change blindness is when you fail to see a large and obvious change in a scene. I’ve been using EEG and FMRI to determine the source of change blindness in visual attention and memory."
Professor Taeko Wydell: "How does the brain recognize, remember and reproduce many languages? How are the brains of bilingual and trilingual people different from monolingual speakers?"
Professor David Bunce: "Why do some people sometimes take a long time to respond in a simple task? Variability in response times is rapidly emerging as an important clinical indicator. Using EEG and FMRI we’re finding out why this is so."
Dr Janine Spencer: "Do people with autism see the world differently? Our imaging studies are telling us why and how"
Three of the taught modules are assessed entirely by coursework (essays). The Principles of Neuroimaging module is assessed by a combination of essay and multiple-choice examination.
The Dissertation is intended to be written in the format of a full-length paper as published in neuroimaging and related journals. The Dissertation is based on a student's own research project and includes a review of the relevant literature. It allows students to undertake in-depth study and investigation of their own functional neuroimaging design in an area relevant to them.
The module essays are coursework that are submitted towards the end of each module, and reflect a student's learning and investigation into one of many topics covered by the module.
The four taught modules consist of lectures, seminars and practical work.
Experts in the field will give you a tour of imaging methods, and explain a number of imaging findings. For the methods modules, you will be given tasks to do on the MRI workstations, investigating, processing and analyzing imaging data. You will discuss any findings and problems with other students and your tutors.
The research module starts with informal discussion with your colleagues, and later with your supervisor. While a great deal of individual research is involved, you won’t be on your own. With regular contact with your supervisor, and working with your colleagues, projects are as much team efforts as individual accomplishments.
The MSc Functional Neuroimaging is an invaluable companion or prelude to a research degree or research position in functional neuroimaging, one of the most rapidly growing fields of scientific research.
What do you do after the MSc Functional Neuroimaging:
Academic or research positions:
* MPhil/Phd in neuroimaging or related subject
* Research Assistant on a neuroscience project, or related project in psychology or biology. Imaging has applications now from the physical sciences to projects in economics and the social sciences.
* Technical Assistant in functional neuroimaging.
* Any occupation that requires a higher level of analytical, technical and presentation skills than can be offered by a graduate in the life sciences
The course is also an ideal precursor to an MPhil or Phd degree course.