PSYCH 756 : Special Topic: Dynamics of Brain and Behavior


2021 Semester Two (1215) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Examines the behavioural and neural changes that result from normal development, those that may arise in the context of neurological diseases and disorders, and the changes that can be elicited via interventions. Topics include the design and implementation of interventions to improve mental and physical health, methods to evaluate characteristics of change, and the precise mechanisms of neural and behavioural change. Recommended preparation: PSYCH 305

Course Overview

This course is designed to introduce students to behavioural and neural dynamics, especially those that can be elicited via interventions. It provides background to this field of research, together with experience designing and interpreting intervention studies. The skills developed in this course are particularly useful for those wishing to have a career involving research, data analysis, or clinical trials. The course consists of a blend of lectures and class discussions, to stimulate critical thinking about the content covered. Assessments are designed to give practical experience with the research process in this field. This course has a strong methodological focus and assumes knowledge of all material covered in PSYCH 306 (Research Methods in Psychology).

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of and appraise the malleability of brain and behaviour (Capability 1)
  2. Understand and explain the role of interventions in the modulation of neural and behavioural processes (Capability 1, 2 and 4)
  3. Describe and critique the research process involved in intervention studies, from deriving hypotheses to designing studies, analyzing the data, and interpreting the results (Capability 1, 2 and 4)
  4. Evaluate critically all components of intervention research (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  5. Explain and communicate ideas related to research on brain and behaviour (Capability 1, 2, 4 and 5)
  6. Design and implement an intervention study answering a novel research question (Capability 1, 3 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Coursework 50% Individual Coursework
Presentation 30% Group & Individual Coursework
Presentation and peer-feedback 20% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6
Presentation and peer-feedback

Key Topics

Week 1: The Plastic Brain
Week 2: Perturbing the System
Week 3: Incorporating Theory
Week 4: Characterising General Trends
Week 5: Understanding Individual Dynamics
Week 6: Pathways to Brain Research in Academia
--Mid-semester break --
Week 7: Measuring Change 
Week 8: Modelling Change
Week 9: Predicting Responses to Interventions
Week 10: Drawing Inferences
Week 11: Beyond Single Study Estimates
Week 12: Implications for Policy and Society

Special Requirements


Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 24 hours of seminars, 36 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 60 hours of work on assignments.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

This course is available to offshore students and students who have been exempted from in-person attendance. Different conditions will apply for these students. Attendance is required to receive credit for components of the course. Lectures will not be available as recordings. The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

All links to articles or resources discussed in class will be provided.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and your assessment is fair, and not compromised. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the University Website for information about how to proceed.

Under the government’s Covid-19 Alert Levels, we anticipate using the following delivery modes. Note this is subject to change depending on the specific circumstances.
Level 1: Delivered normally as specified in delivery mode
Level 2: You will not be required to attend in person. All teaching and assessment will have a remote option. 
Level 3 / 4: All teaching activities and assessments are delivered remotely.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 07/12/2020 03:49 p.m.