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Animal Cognition



On completion of this module, students should be able to:

  • Show knowledge and understanding of contemporary findings and theories concerning selected areas of animal cognition.

  • Understand the key principles of cognitive neurobiology.

  • Display detailed understanding of key debates within the study of animal cognition.

  • Position translational research within human health and disease research frameworks.


This course addresses the experimental analysis of cognition and behaviour in animals focussing on three selected main subjects:

  • Emotion & Cognition: fear conditioning, reward, spatial learning, environment*genetics: from molecular and neurobiological mechanisms to behavioural readouts.

  • Communication: birdsong and language – same or different? From syntax to brains.

  • Cognition in humans and animals; differences of degree or kind?

We will discuss and learn about main contemporary approaches

  • to create animal model systems, from genes to behaviour, to understand the physiology and pathology of cognitive processes in humans and

  • to understand animal cognition within an evolutionary framework concerned with the natural histories of animals and the mechanisms of behaviour.
    In addition to discussing basic experimental results about cognition and intelligence in animals, emphasis will be placed on the logic and evidence used to justify any theoretical conclusions.


Selected passages from the Brain and Cognition Minor’s set of textbooks and selected primary literature.

Mode of teaching

“Textbook knowledge” is acquired via instruction lectures, and self study of textbook and primary literature and interactive classes. Case study and Special Topics lectures presented by specialists in the field and the students’ symposium will cover ongoing research and new developments in the field of Animal Cognition. Handouts and other material will be made available via the digital learning environment Blackboard.


2-3 short written examinations (‘day tests’), quality and quantity of participation in the discussions and lectures as well as marks for the presentations during the student’s symposium.