The following modules have been mapped to the MRCPsych syllabus,
1-4 (inclusive), and cover the basic
science topics. They are currently under
development by Higher Trainees and the Editorial team.
If you are a consultant and you would be willing to provide
feedback on these modules, please see our Expert Reviewers page and contact us noting your areas of
If you would like to see how we have divided our
modules or want to target your learning for the exams, take a
look at our syllabus pages.
Click the links below to view the modules in the
following categories or scroll down to see the full list.
Social psychology (7
Social science and
socio-cultural psychiatry (9 modules)
Human development (8
Molecular genetics (4
psychopharmacology (6 modules)
History of psychiatry (1
Please note that the descriptions provided beneath the
module titles are not comprehensive;
cross-refer to the syllabus for full details on what each module
Psychology (10 modules)
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
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 interaction.
and information processing (published)
The application of these to the study of
schizophrenia and other conditions.
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.
The possible relationship with language.
Concepts, prototypes and cores. Deductive and inductive reasoning.
Problem-solving strategies, algorithms and heuristics.
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.
needs and drives (published)
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.
components of emotional response (published)
Critical appraisal of James-Lange and
Cannon-Bard theories. Cognitive appraisal, differentiation and the
status of primary emotions. Emotions and performance.
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.
10. States and
levels of awareness (published)
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
Social Psychology (7
1. Attitudes (published)
Components and measurement by Thurstone,
Likert and semantic differential scales. Attitude change and
persuasive communication. Cognitive consistency and dissonance.
2. Self-psychology (published)
Self-concept, self-esteem and self-image.
Self-recognition and personal identity.
3. Interpersonal issues (published)
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.
4. Social influence: leadership, power,
conformity and obedience (published)
Types of social power. Influence operating in
small and large groups or crowds: conformity, polarisation and
‘groupthink’, deindividuation. Communicative control in
5. Intergroup behaviour (published)
Prejudice, stereotypes and intergroup
hostility. Social identity and group membership.
6. Aggression (published)
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 individuals.
7. Altruism (published)
Social exchange theory and helping
relationships. Interpersonal co-operation.
& socio-cultural psychiatry (9 modules)
1. Social class, socioeconomic status
and their relevance to psychiatric disorder and healthcare
Social class, socio-economic status and their
relevance to psychiatric disorder and health care delivery.
2. The social roles of doctors
Sick role and illness behaviour.
3. Family life in relation to major mental illness
Particularly the effects of high Expressed
4. Social factors and specific mental health issues
Particularly depression, schizophrenia and
addictions. Life events and their subjective, contextual
5. A social history of mental health
6. Basic principles of criminology and penology
7. Stigma and prejudice (published)
8. The mental health of ethnic minorities
Acculturation and mental health.
9. Ethics and
philosophy in psychiatry (published)
Human Development (8
1. Conceptualising and studying development
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. Methodology for studying development:
cross sectional, cohort and individual studies. Identification and
evaluation of influences.
2. Family relationships (published)
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. 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 structure
including cultural influences on family and stages of family.
3. Development of temperament
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
mental health. Cognitive development with critical reference to
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. 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.
2.5, 2.6, 2.10)
4. Development of language
Basic outline of language development in
childhood with special reference to environmental influences and
5. Development of social competence and morals
Development of social competence and
relationships with peers: acceptance, group formation,
co-operation, friendships, isolation and rejection. The components
of popularity. moral development with critical reference to
Kohlberg’s stage theory. Relationship to development of social
6. Adolescence and sexual development
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. Sexual development including
the development of sexual entity and preferences.
7. Adaptations in adult life
Adaptations in adult life, such as pairing,
parenting, illness, bereavement and loss. The development of
personal (ego-) identity in adolescence and adult life. Work,
ethnic, gender and other identities. Pregnancy and childbirth and
their stresses both physiological and psychological. Mid-life
8. Normal ageing (published)
The impact of normal ageing on physical, social,
cognitive and emotional aspects if 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,
socio-cultural differences. Genetic influences on development
including gene environment interactions. Neuroimaging and its role
in understanding development. Up to date findings in this
Neuroanatomy (6 modules)
1. The functional anatomy of the brain
The 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 spinal chord.
2. The anatomy of the basal ganglia
3. The internal anatomy of the temporal lobes
I.e. hippocampal formation and amygdala.
4. The major white matter pathways
E.g. corpus callosum, fornix, Papez’s circuit
and other circuits relevant to integrated behaviour (see
5. The types of cell found within the nervous system
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.
Neurophysiology (6 modules)
physiology of neurons (published)
The basic concepts in the physiology of neurons,
synapses and receptors, including synthesis, release and uptake of
transmitters. A basic knowledge of action potential, resting
potential, ion fluxes and channels.
2. The neural and endocrine systems
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
3. The development of cerebral functions
The 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
4. Neuroendocrine disorders
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.
physiology of arousal and sleep (published)
A basic knowledge of the physiology of
arousal and sleep and with particular reference to noradrenergic
activity and the locus coeruleus.
6. The EEG
The 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.
Neurochemistry (4 modules)
1. Neurotransmitters (published)
Transmitter synthesis, storage and release. Ion
channels and calcium flux in relation to this.
2. Neuroreceptors (published)
Receptor structure and function in relation to
noradrenaline, serotonin, dopamine, GABA, acetylcholine, excitatory
amino acids. Pre-synaptic and post-synaptic receptors.
3. Pharmacology of neurotransmitters
Basic pharmacology of noradrenaline, serotonin,
dopamine, GABA, acetylcholine, excitatory amino acids.
Neuropeptides, particularly corticotrophin
releasing hormone and cholecystokinin and the
Molecular Genetics (4
Chromosomes, cell division, gene structure,
transcription and translation, structure of the human genome,
patterns of inheritance .Traditional techniques in genetics:
family, twin and adoption studies.
2. Techniques in
Restriction enzymes, molecular cloning and gene
probes, Southern blotting, restriction fragment length
polymorphisms, recombination. Gene analysis and gene tracking:
Distinction between direct gene analysis and gene tracking. Genetic
markers, linkage studies, lod scores. Genome wide association
studies, genetic variants.
3. Chromosomal abnormalities and inherited conditions in
Conditions associated with chromosome
abnormalities and principal inherited conditions encountered in
psychiatric practice and the genetic contribution to specific
Prenatal identification. Genetic counselling.
The organisation of clinical genetic services, DNA banks. Molecular
and genetic heterogeneity. Phenotype/genotype correspondence.
Endophenotypes. Gene X Environment interaction. Epigenetics.
Neuropathology (2 modules)
1. Neuropathology: Part 1 –
Neuropathology of Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease,
Pick’s Disease, Fronto-Temporal Dementias, and Lewy Body diseases
including Parkinson’s Disease.
2. Neuropathology: Part 2 – prions and
Neuropathology of Prion Diseases and HIV brain
Clinical Psychopharmacology (6
principles of clinical
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
2. Pharmacokinetics: Part 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 pharmacokinetics.
3. Pharmacokinetics: Part 2 – therapeutic
drug monitorin (published)
Relationships between plasma drug level and
therapeutic response: the possibilities and limitations of this
concept with specific examples such as lithium, antidepressants and
4. Pharmacodynamics: Part 1
Synaptic receptor complexity, main receptor
sub-types, phenomena of receptor up- and down- regulation.
5. Pharmacodynamics: Part 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. Neurochemical
effects of ECT.
6. Adverse Drug
Understanding of dose-related as distinct from
The major categories of ADRs associated with the
main groups of drugs used in psychiatry and those associated with
appropriate corrective action.
The 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. Knowledge of official guidance
on the use of particular drugs (e.g. the Royal College Guidelines
on the use of Benzodiazepines, NICE guidance). The information
database for adverse drug reactions and how to report them.
Prescribing of controlled drugs.
4.4, all parts)
History of Psychiatry (1
1. A brief
introduction to the history of psychiatry
This module has been designed specifically to complement the
suite of basic science modules by providing historical contexts to
the figures and theories discussed. It is not drawn from a specific
area of the syllabus.