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Course description

It’s widely recognised by modern neuroscience that taking a systems approach to exploring the brain is vital to understanding brain function. Systems neuroscience focuses on the interactions between neural structures in networks that give rise to sensori-motor control and information processing, and it’s these interactions that provide us with a foundation for understanding the relationship between brain structure and brain function in the context of the cognitive, perceptual and motor mechanisms that underpin behaviour.

To develop our understanding of this relationship we need to integrate experimental and theoretical approaches. That’s why the MSc Systems Neuroscience course has been designed to provide you with interdisciplinary training in cutting-edge approaches to understanding how brain cells interact in networks to contribute to function and behaviour.

At Sheffield, we have a strong research track-record in computational neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, and systems neuroscience and by giving you access to experts in the field as well as world-class research facilities from neurobotics platforms to neuroimaging equipment, we’re training the next generation of brain scientists to tackle the relationship between brain and behaviour.

Course structure

This 12-month course is designed to provide you with in-depth training into the core problems in systems neuroscience, and will develop your understanding of the disciplines and techniques used to address these problems such as computer simulation modelling, data visualisation and neuroanatomy.

In semester one you’ll build on your existing knowledge, giving you a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of neuroscience, computational neuroscience and mathematical modelling. Once you’ve developed a solid foundation in these areas at the core of systems neuroscience, semester two will be devoted to advanced modules where you’ll tailor your learning and choose to specialise in one of two distinct routes of study: pathway 1 or pathway 2.

Semester three will be devoted to your extended research project which is the biggest part of this MSc. With one-to-one supervision, you’ll spend 17 weeks applying the knowledge you’ve gained throughout your masters to investigate a specific issue at the cutting-edge of cognitive neuroscience that’s linked to active research in the Department of Psychology.

Current modules - all students will study

  • Fundamentals of Neuroscience (15 credits) - provides you with an introduction to the core aspects of contemporary neuroscience covering neural signalling, sensation and sensory processing, movement and its central control, the `changing brain' and complex brain functions.
  • Computational Neuroscience (15 credits) - the emphasis of this module is on the use of mathematical and computational models of single neuronal function.
  • Applied Neuroanatomy and Clinical Neuroscience (15 credits) - study practical neuroanatomy (human brain dissection) and gain an overview of neuroradiology (mainly magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] and computed tomography [CT]).
  • Systems Neuroscience (15 credits) - gain an advanced understanding of the brain's major computational systems and how they have been modelled. 
  • Data Analysis and Visualization (15 credits) - begin training in computational data analysis through hands-on computer lab-based classes.
  • Research Project in Cognitive Neuroscience (75 credits) - learn and apply appropriate research techniques, analyse and interpret the results and write up the research findings under the supervision of a neuroscientist.

Students will also study two modules in either pathway 1 or pathway 2.

Pathway 1:

  • Neuroimaging 1 (15 credits) - gain an overview neuroimaging techniques and fundamental data analysis methodologies employed around functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Neuroimaging 2 (15 credits) - building on Neuroimaging 1 - you'll focus on the techniques of electrophysiology, EEG, and MEG, optical methods and calcium imaging.

Pathway 2:

  • Fundamentals of Cognition (15 credits) - topics include fundamental issues in cognition (memory, attention, learning, perception, affect), developmental processes from neuroscience, psychology and dynamic systems perspectives, and theoretical approaches.
  • Computational Neuroscience 2 (15 credits) - explore information theory, Bayes' theorem and learning algorithms in the context of neuronal information processing.

Learning, teaching and assessment

You’ll learn through small-group teaching in a mixture of seminars and lectures, and problem solving, programming and laboratory classes. You’ll be assessed through formal examinations and coursework which may include essays, presentations and a dissertation.

After your degree

With the valuable skills and knowledge that you’ll develop throughout your research training, including computational modelling, imaging, and analysis expertise, you’ll be well equipped for careers including:

  • Analysis and visualisation of data within hospitals, other healthcare providers or the pharmaceutical industry;
  • Roles within deep learning, machine learning or artificial intelligence;
  • Pursuing a career in research, understanding major diseases like stroke, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons and epilepsy within academia or governmental organisations.

If you choose to continue your research training, these courses are great preparation for a PhD in areas including neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and brain interfaces, or to begin clinical training.

Explore the breadth of neuroscience

At Sheffield, we have a strong research track-record in computational neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, and systems neuroscience. Because of these expertise, our courses cover the full breadth of cognitive neuroscience, from the biological basis, to imaging and simulation, allowing you to discover and focus on the area that you’re most interested in as you progress through your course.

Other courses in cognitive neuroscience:

Funding and scholarships

Funding is available, depending on your fee status, where you live and the course you plan to study. You could also qualify for a repayable postgraduate masters loan to help fund your studies.

Find out more

How to apply

To apply for this course, complete the University of Sheffield's postgraduate online application form.

Online application form

Early applications are encouraged. Any applications received after all places have been filled will be deferred for entry the following year.


Visit the MSc Systems Neuroscience page on the University of Sheffield website for more details!

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