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Here is the latest version of the syllabic curriculum
basic sciences content for the MRCPsych (full
syllabus [DOC]). Each time we publish a new module, we will add
a link to the relevant area of the syllabus. Here you can
see how we have divided our modules, track our
progress and find the modules that cover the topics you want
Modules in green have been published.
All other modules are
Please note that this is not the full syllabus, it is 1-4 only.
For 5-14, see our separate integrated syllabus/module
lists for the clinical topics and
critical review/evidence based
You can also view our original module lists for both our first
set of basic science modules and our
clinical/critical review topics.
According to the new system, Paper A tests 1-5 of the syllabus
and Paper B tests 6-14. 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
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
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 penology.
Module title: Basic principles of criminology
1.3.7 Stigma and prejudice.
Module title: Stigma and prejudice
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:
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
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
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
Module title: Family relationships
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
Module title: Adolescence and sexual
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’.
Module title: 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 lobes, i.e. hippocampal formation and amygdala.
Module title: The internal anatomy of the
3.1.4 The major
white matter pathways, e.g. corpus callosum, fornix, Papez’s
circuit and other circuits relevant to integrated behaviour (see
Module title: The major white matter
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 neurones
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 (functional)
Module title: The neural and endocrine
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
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: Physiology of arousal and
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
associated with chromosome abnormalities.
3.4.6 Principal inherited
conditions encountered in psychiatric practice and the genetic
contribution to specific psychiatric disorders.
Module title: Conditions associated with
chromosome abnormalities and inherited conditions in psychiatry
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
18.104.22.168 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
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
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
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
between plasma drug level and therapeutic response: the
possibilities and limitations of this concept with specific
examples such as lithium, antidepressants and anticonvulsants.
Module title: Pharmacokinetics 2
4.3.1 Synaptic receptor complexity, main receptor
sub-types, phenomena of receptor up- and down- regulation.
Module title: Pharmacodynamics 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 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