It ought to be generally known that the source of our pleasure, merriment, laughter and amusement, as of our grief, pain, anxiety and tears, is none other than the brain.   - Hippocrates Brain image

And of course the brain is not responsible for any of the sensations at all. The correct view is that the seat and source of sensation is the region of the heart.   - Aristotle

The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around.   - Thomas A. Edison

In this new addition to the evening class programme we will delve into the inner workings of your brain: what it is, how it functions, how it is affected by what we do, and what can happen when something goes wrong. Even a basic understanding of the brain can affect the way we live our lives and view the world. This course aims to give you an insight into the brain’s intricacies in a way that is accessible, interesting, and relatable to all. 

The course will be taught in an interactive manner. In addition to tutor input, you will get the opportunity to discuss your own ideas and experiences with a variety of people, learn from each other, and take part in tasks and games that will build your understanding of each topic.

We will start with a journey from man’s early understanding of the brain into the modern day, addressing some of the most pertinent questions in human culture along way.  We will aim to build an understanding of what the brain is and how it works before covering a range of specialist topics across neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry.

Subject to sufficient enrolment, two parallel classes with identical course content will run, one on Tuesdays and one on Wednesdays (please see programme timetable).

A proposed 20-week program is set out below, but you will have the opportunity to suggest and request specific topics. 

Course syllabus
WeekTopic
 1 Neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry: What’s the difference?
 2 The ancient view of the brain
 3 Localising function and the senses
 4 The mystery of the nerve impulse and chemicals in the brain
 5 What’s in there? Mapping the cerebral cortex and brain imaging
 6 Child to adult: Development of the brain
 7 Mind vs Brain: Consciousness
 8 Is it like a computer?
 9 Memory – how it works and how it goes wrong
  *** Christmas break ***
 10 Learning, intelligence and getting good at stuff
 11 Is it all about movement?
 12 Movement disorders
 13 Memory disorders
 14 Anxiety and performing under pressure
 15 Brain injury: Case studies you won’t believe
 16 Brain surgery
 17 The brain around the world: Cultural views of the brain
 18 Bad brain science
 19 My heroes of the brain
 20 What does the future hold?
Brain course syllabus

About the Tutor

Oliver Runswick’s interest in the brain developed through an interest in movement and learning, specifically in the development of expertise across different fields. Following an MSc in Human Movement Science he is currently working towards gaining a PhD in experimental psychology that focuses on perceptual-motor skill, anticipation and performing under pressure.  Oliver has been involved in teaching in a number of different domains as well as communicating scientific knowledge to applied practitioners in sport and to the general public through a variety of media outlets.

Questions regarding the content and teaching of the above course should be addressed to the tutor, Mr Oliver Runswick, o.runswick@imperial.ac.uk.

Enrolment infos

Imperial College undergraduates and postgraduates may, if they wish, acquire 2 ECTS credits after successfully completing their Evening Class. To qualify, a student must attend the classes regularly and pass a test at the end of the second term. Students will be invited to apply in the second term to take the test.