The latest version of the syllabic curriculum basic
sciences content for the MRCPsych can be found on the
for Paper A webpage. Trainees Online modules are being
developed in response to the recent developments in the
neuroscience curriculum. Each time we publish a new module,
we will add a link to the relevant area of the syllabus. Here you
can track our progress and see the syllabus covered by each module
so you can find the modules that cover the topics you want to
learn. This list will be updated shortly in response to the revised
neuroscience curriculum, published in July 2018.
Modules in green have been published.
All other modules are
Please note that this is not the full syllabus, it covers
the basic sciences only.
You can also view our original module list for our first set of
basic science modules.
The basic science syllabus is currently tested in Paper
A. For guidance, please see the
Exams pages on the main College website.
1. BEHAVIOURAL SCIENCE AND
The trainee shall demonstrate core
knowledge in the key areas of behavioural science and
socio-cultural psychiatry. This knowledge will include basic and
1.1.1 Learning theory: classical, operant, observational
and cognitive models. The concepts of extinction and reinforcement.
Learning processes and aetiological formulation of clinical
problems, including the concepts of generalisation, secondary
reinforcement, incubation and stimulus preparedness. Escape and
avoidance conditioning. Clinical applications in behavioural
treatments: reciprocal inhibition, habituation, chaining, shaping,
cueing. The impact of various reinforcement schedules. The
psychology of punishment. Optimal conditions for observational
Module title: Learning
1.1.2 Basic principles of visual and auditory perception:
figure ground differentiation, object constancy, set, and other
aspects of perceptual organisation. Perception as an active
process. The relevance of perceptual theory to illusions,
hallucinations and other psychopathology. The development of visual
perception as an illustration of constitutional/ environmental
Module title: Basic
principles of visual and auditory perception
Information processing and attention. The
application of these to the study of schizophrenia and other
Module title: Attention and information processing
1.1.4 Memory: influences upon and optimal conditions for
encoding, storage and retrieval. Primary working memory storage
capacity and the principle of chunking. Semantic episodic and
skills memories and other aspects of long-term/secondary memory.
The process of forgetting. Emotional factors and retrieval.
Distortion, inference, schemata and elaboration in relation. The
relevance of this to memory disorders and their assessment.
Module title: Memory
1.1.5 Thought: the possible relationship with language.
Concepts, prototypes and cores. Deductive and inductive reasoning.
Problem-solving strategies, algorithms and heuristics.
Module title: Thought
1.1.6 Personality: derivation of nomothetic and
idiographic theories. Trait and type approaches and elementary
personal construct theory. Resume of principles underlying
psychoanalytic, social learning, cognitive neuroscience and
humanistic approaches. The interactionist approach. Construction
and use of inventories, rating scales, grids and Q-sort.
Module title: Personality
1.1.7 Motivation: needs and drives. Extrinsic theories
(based on primary and secondary drive reduction) and homeostasis.
Hypothalamic systems and satiety. Intrinsic theories, curiosity and
optimum levels of arousal. Limitations of approach and attempts to
integrate. Cognitive consistency. Need for achievement (nAch).
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Module title: Motivation
1.1.8 Emotion: components of emotional response. Critical
appraisal of James-Lange and Cannon-Bard theories. Cognitive
appraisal, differentiation and the status of primary emotions.
Emotions and performance.
Module title: Emotion
physiological and psychological aspects. Situational factors: life
events, daily hassles/uplifts, conflict and trauma. Vulnerability
and invulnerability, type A behaviour theory. Coping mechanisms.
Locus of control, learned helplessness and learned resourcefulness.
Module title: Stress
1.1.10 States and levels of awareness: levels of
consciousness and evidence for unconscious processing. Arousal,
attention and alertness. Sleep structure and dreaming. Parasomnias.
Biorhythms and effects of sleep deprivation. Hypnosis and
suggestibility. Meditation and trances.
Module title: States and
levels of awareness
1.2 Social Psychology
1.2.1 Attitudes: components and measurement by Thurstone,
Likert and semantic differential scales. Attitude change and
persuasive communication. Cognitive consistency and dissonance.
Module title: Attitudes
1.2.2 Self psychology: self-concept, self-esteem and
self-image. Self-recognition and personal identity.
Module title: Self-psychology
1.2.3 Interpersonal issues: person perception,
affiliation and friendship. Attribution theory, ‘naive psychology’
and the primary (fundamental) attribution error. Social behaviour
in social interactions. ‘Theory of mind’ as it might apply to
pervasive developmental and personality disorders. Elemental
linguistics as applied to interpersonal communication.
Module title: Interpersonal issues
Leadership, social influence, power and
obedience. Types of social power. Influence operating in small and
large groups or crowds: conformity, polarisation and ‘groupthink’,
deindividuation. Communicative control in relationships.
Module title: Social
influence: leadership, power, conformity and obedience
1.2.5 Intergroup behaviour: prejudice, stereotypes and
intergroup hostility. Social identity and group membership.
Module title: Intergroup
1.2.6 Aggression: explanations according to social
learning theory, operant conditioning, ethnology, frustration and
arousal concepts. The influence of television and other
media. Family and social backgrounds of aggressive
Module title: Aggression
1.2.7 Altruism, social exchange theory and helping
relationships. Interpersonal co-operation.
Module title: Altruism
1.3 Social science & socio-cultural
terms: social class, socio-economic status and their relevance to
psychiatric disorder and health care delivery.
Module title: Social class and socio-economic
1.3.2 The social roles of doctors. Sick role and illness
Module title: The social
role of doctors
1.3.3 Family life in relation to major mental illness
(particularly the effects of high Expressed Emotion).
Module title: Family
life in relation to major mental illness
1.3.4 Social factors and specific mental health issues,
particularly depression, schizophrenia and addictions. Life events
and their subjective, contextual evaluation.
Module title: Social
factors and specific mental health issues
sociology of residential institutions.
Module title: A social
history of mental health institutions
1.3.6 Basic principles of criminology and
Module title: Basic
principles of criminology and penology
1.3.7 Stigma and prejudice.
Module title: Stigma and
1.3.8 Ethnic minorities, acculturation and mental
Module title: The mental
health of ethnic minorities
1.3.9 Ethics and philosophy in psychiatry
Module title: Ethics and
philosophy in psychiatry
The trainee should be knowledgeable
about normal biological, psychological and social development from
infancy to old age. This is in order to consider:
stages of normal development in order to determine whether an
individual’s style of thinking, coping, feeling or behaviour is
appropriate for that stage or may be an indication of
· How the
stage of cognitive and emotional development may influence the
aetiology, presentation and management of mental health
that may be associated with vulnerability to mental health problems
and protective factors associated with resilience.
Developmental issues in relation to the varied cultural and
economic backgrounds of patients.
In particular trainees should be able to
demonstrate knowledge of:
2.1 Basic frameworks for conceptualising development:
nature and nurture, stage theories, maturational tasks. Possible
definitions of maturity. Examination of gene-environment
interactions with specific reference to intelligence. Relative
influence of early versus later adversities. The relevance of
developmental framework for understanding the impact of specific
adversities such as trauma. Historical models and theories:
Freud and general psychoanalytic; social-learning, Piaget.
2.2 Methodology for studying development: cross
sectional, cohort and individual studies. Identification and
evaluation of influences.
Module title: Conceptualising and studying development
2.3 Bowlby attachment theory and its relevance to
emotional development, affect regulation and human relationships in
childhood and later on. Conditions for secure attachment. Types and
clinical relevance of insecure and disorganised attachment. Early
separation and its consequences. Consequences of failure to develop
selective attachments. Brief consideration of attachment, maternal
‘bonding’ parental sensitivity.
2.4 Other aspects of family relationships and parenting
practices. The influence of parental attitudes compared with
parenting practices. Systemic theory including supportive systems
in development, and aspects of distorted family function: e.g.
discord, overprotection, rejection, and enmeshment. The impact of
bereavement, parental divorce and intra-familial abuse on
subsequent development and mental health of the child. The
relevance or otherwise of different family structures including
cultural influences on family and stages of family.
Module title: Family
2.5 Individual temperamental differences and
their impact on parent-child relationships. Origins, typologies and
stability of temperament and the evolution of character and
personality. Childhood vulnerability and resilience with respect to
2.6 Cognitive development with critical reference to
key models such as the bio-psychosocial model and Piaget’s
model. The impact of attributions and beliefs, and cultural,
genetic and other influences. The relevance of
pre-operational and formal operational thought to communication
with children and adults.
Module title: Development of temperament (Sections 1-3)
2.7 Basic outline of language development in childhood
with special reference to environmental influences and
Module title: Development of language
2.8 Development of social competence and relationships
with peers: acceptance, group formation, co-operation, friendships,
isolation and rejection. The components of popularity.
2.9 Moral development with critical reference to
Kohlberg’s stage theory. Relationship to development of social
Module title: Development of social competence and morals
2.10 Development of emotion literacy and emotional
regulation in childhood and adolescence including development of
fears in childhood and adolescence with reference to age. Possible
aetiological and maintenance mechanisms.
Module title: Development of Temperament (Section 4)
2.11 Sexual development including the development of
sexual identity and preferences.
2.12 Adolescence as a developmental phase with special
reference to pubertal changes, task mastery, conflict with parents
and authority, affective stability and ‘turmoil’. Normal and
abnormal adolescent development.
Module title: Adolescence and sexual development
2.13 Adaptations in adult life, such as pairing,
parenting, illness, bereavement and loss.
2.14 Pregnancy and childbirth and their stresses both
physiological and psychological.
2.15 The development of personal (ego-) identity in
adolescence and adult life. Work, ethnic, gender and other
identities. Mid-life ‘crises’.
Adaptations in adult life
2.16 Normal ageing and its impact on physical, social,
cognitive and emotional aspects of individual functioning. Social
changes accompanying old age, importance of loss, personality
changes with ageing. Social and economic factors in old age;
attitude, status of the elderly, retirement, income, accommodation,
2.17 Genetic influences on
development including gene environment interactions.
2.18 Neuroimaging and its
role in understanding development. Up to date findings in
Module title: Normal
3. BASIC NEUROSCIENCES
The trainee shall demonstrate knowledge
of basic neurosciences which underpin the practice of clinical
general anatomy of the brain and the functions of the lobes and
some of the major gyri including the prefrontal cortex, cingulate
gyrus and limbic system. Basic knowledge of the cranial nerves and
Module title: The
functional anatomy of the brain
3.1.2 The anatomy of the basal ganglia.
Module title: The
anatomy of the basal ganglia
3.1.3 The internal anatomy of the temporal lobe, i.e.
hippocampal formation and amygdala.
Module title: The
internal anatomy of the temporal lobe
3.1.4 The major white matter pathways, e.g. corpus
callosum, fornix, Papez’s circuit and other circuits relevant to
integrated behaviour (see neurophysiology section).
Module title: The major
white matter pathways
3.1.5 The types of cell found within the nervous
Module title: The types
of cell found within the nervous system
3.1.6 The major neurochemical pathways, including the
nigrostriatal, mesolimbic and mesocortical dopamine pathways, the
ascending noradrenergic pathway from the locus coeruleus, the basal
forebrain cholinergic pathway, the brain stem cholinergic pathway,
the corticofugal glutamate system and serotonin pathways.
Module title: The major
3.2.1 The basic
concepts in the physiology of neurones, synapses and receptors,
including synthesis, release and uptake of transmitters. A basic
knowledge of action potential, resting potential, ion fluxes and
Module title: The physiology of neurons
3.2.2 The physiology and anatomical pathways of the
neural and endocrine systems involved in integrated behaviour
including perception, pain, memory, motor function, arousal, drives
(sexual behaviour, hunger and thirst), motivation and the emotions,
including aggression, fear and stress. Knowledge of disturbances of
these functions with relevance to organic and non-organic
Module title: The neural
and endocrine systems
development and localisation of cerebral functions throughout the
life span from the foetal stages onwards and their relevance to the
effects of injury at different ages to the brain and to mental
function. An understanding of neurodevelopmental models of
psychiatric disorders and of cerebral plasticity.
Module title: The
development of cerebral functions
3.2.4 An understanding of the neuroendocrine system, in
particular the control of the secretion of hypothalamic and
pituitary hormones (by releasing factors and by feedback control)
and posterior pituitary function. The main hormonal changes in
psychiatric disorders. A basic understanding of neuroendocrine
rhythms and their disturbance in psychiatric disorders.
Module title: Neuroendocrine disorders
3.2.5 A basic knowledge of the physiology of arousal and
sleep and with particular reference to noradrenergic activity and
the locus coeruleus.
Module title: The
physiology of arousal and sleep
normal EEG (including frequency bands) and evoked response
techniques. The applications to investigation of cerebral
pathology, seizure disorders, sleep and psychiatric disorders. The
effects of drugs on the EEG.
Module title: The
3.3.1 Transmitter synthesis, storage and release. Ion
channels and calcium flux in relation to this.
Module title: Neurotransmitters
3.3.2 Knowledge of receptor structure and function in
relation to the transmitters listed below. Pre-synaptic and
Module title: Neuroreceptors
pharmacology of noradrenaline, serotonin, dopamine, GABA,
acetylcholine, excitatory amino acids.
Module title: Pharmacology of
knowledge of neuropeptides, particularly corticotrophin releasing
hormone and cholecystokinin and the encephalins/endorphins.
Module title: Neuropeptides
3.4 Molecular Genetics
3.4.1 Basic concepts: chromosomes, cell division, gene
structure, transcription and translation, structure of the human
genome, patterns of inheritance.
3.4.2 Traditional techniques: family, twin and adoption
Module title: Basic
3.4.3 Techniques in
molecular genetics: restriction enzymes, molecular cloning and gene
probes, Southern blotting, restriction fragment length
3.4.4 Distinction between
direct gene analysis and gene tracking. Genetic markers, linkage
studies, lod scores. Genome wide association studies, genetic
Module title: Techniques in genetics
3.4.5 Conditions associated with chromosome
3.4.6 Principal inherited conditions encountered in
psychiatric practice and the genetic contribution to specific
Module title: Chromosomal abnormalities and inherited conditions
3.4.7 Prenatal identification. Genetic counselling. The
organisation of clinical genetic services, DNA banks.
3.4.8 Molecular and genetic heterogeneity.
Phenotype/genotype correspondence. Endophenotypes. Gene X
Environment interaction. Epigenetics.
Module title: Clinical
3.5.1 Neuropathology of Dementia
188.8.131.52 Neuropathology of Alzheimer’s Disease
Neuropathology of Pick’s Disease and Fronto-Temporal
Neuropathology of Lewy Body diseases including Parkinson’s
Module title: Neuropathology: Part 1 – dementia
Neuropathology of Prion Diseases
3.5.3 Neuropathology of HIV brain disease.
Module title: Neuropathology: Part 2 – HIV and prion
The trainee will demonstrate knowledge
of psychopharmacology. This knowledge will include will include
pharmacological action, clinical indications, side effects, drug
interactions, toxicity and appropriate prescribing practice. In
particular trainees will be able to demonstrate knowledge
4.1 General principles. A brief
historical overview of the development of psychotropic drugs. Their
classification. Optimising patient compliance. Knowledge of the
placebo effect and the importance of controlling for it. The
principles of rational prescribing of psychoactive drugs.
Module title: General
principles of clinical psychopharmacology
4.2.1 General principles of absorption, distribution,
metabolism and elimination. Drug interactions. Particular
reference to a comparison of oral, intramuscular and intravenous
routes of administration as they affect drug availability,
elimination as it affects the life of the drug in the body and
access to the brain through the ‘blood-brain barrier’. Applications
of these to choice of administrative route and timing of doses. The
relationship of ageing, culture, ethnicity to
Module title: Pharmacokinetics: Part 1 –
4.2.2 Relationships between plasma drug level and
therapeutic response: the possibilities and limitations of this
concept with specific examples such as lithium, antidepressants and
Module title: Pharmacokinetics: Part 2 –
therapeutic drug monitoring
4.3.1 Synaptic receptor complexity, main receptor
sub-types, phenomena of receptor up- and down- regulation.
Module title: Pharmacodynamics: Part 1
4.3.2 The principal CNS
pharmacology of the main groups of drugs used in psychiatry with
particular attention to their postulated modes of action in
achieving therapeutic affect: at both molecular/synaptic and
systems levels. These groups would include ‘anti-psychotic’ agents,
drugs used in the treatment of affective disorder (both mood
altering and stabilising), anxiolytics, hypnotics and
anti-epileptic agents. The relationship of culture, race and
ethnicity to pharmacodynamics.
4.3.3 Neurochemical effects of
Module title: Pharmacodynamics: Part 2
4.4 Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs)
Understanding of dose-related as distinct from ‘idiosyncratic’
4.4.2 The major
categories of ADRs associated with the main groups of drugs used in
psychiatry and those associated with appropriate corrective
importance of assessing risks and benefits for every individual
patient in relation to his medication. Risks and benefits of
psychotropic drugs in acute, short- and long-term use including
effects of withdrawal. Where appropriate, knowledge of official
guidance on the use of particular drugs (e.g. the Royal College
Guidelines on the use of Benzodiazepines, NICE guidance).
information database for adverse drug reactions and how to report
of controlled drugs.
Module title: Adverse drug reactions