Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience MSc

Gain specialist training and transferable research skills with our specialised MSc Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience at Aston University, Birmingham. Benefit from access to leading researchers and state-of-the-art facilities within the Aston Institute of Health and Neurodevelopment and School of Psychology.


Location: Aston University, Birmingham

Course type

Course format


1 year full-time

UCAS code(s)


Start date

Joel Talcott

We want our students to become members of our research community in Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, to learn from and with us, and ultimately to develop into research colleagues toward our mutual pursuit of the mechanisms of the human mind.”

Professor Joel Talcott, Programme Director and Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience

Course outline and modules

Cognitive and affective neuroscience studies the biological processes that underpin how human beings think, reason and process their emotional experience. 

The MSc Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience at Aston, provides a unique dual emphasis, providing specialist training at the brain-behaviour interface, as well as on generic and transferable research and communication skills for augmenting your career aspirations and professional development.

This course is part of the School of Psychology which sits within the College of Health and Life Sciences.

Course outline

During your year at Aston, you will study specialist modules that combine theory and practice. You’ll complete a core curriculum of six taught modules which will provide you with a detailed and critical understanding of the contemporary research and analysis methods used in cognitive and affective neuroscience. Topics covered in this course include:

•    Theories and applications of neuroanatomy
•    Cognitive and sensory systems
•    Affective neuroscience
•    Social cognition
•    Neurodevelopment and disorders
•    Neuroanatomy.

In addition, you will have the opportunity to complete research practicals using some of the advanced technologies of cognitive neuroscience, including magnetic resonance imaging, magnetoencephalography, and eye movement recording. These sessions are supported within a series of trainings in core research skills such as how to formulate a scientific research question, scoping and implementing research designs, and stimulus presentation and programming.

There is also an emphasis on generic professional development and research-related communication skills in our Key Skills for Cognitive Neuroscientists modules. Here you will develop your abilities in areas such as oral and written presentation, personal promotion and employability, intellectual property, scientific writing, systematic review and Meta-analysis, and in research ethics.

Core modules 

  • Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience: Theories and applications
  • Advanced Research Design and Analysis
  • Research Practicals 1
  • Research Practicals 2
  • Key skills for Cognitive Neuroscientists 1
  • Key skills for Cognitive Neuroscientists 2
  • Research Dissertation in Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

What could my research project be?

The major practical component of the course is the research dissertation project, which provides you with the opportunity to develop, implement and communicate an original piece of research. The project is completed with a research mentor of international standing in cognitive and/or affective neuroscience. Past projects include:

•    Memory enrichment by social context: A virtual reality EEG research project.
•    Realistic navigation of virtual mazes: Distinguishing egocentric vs allocentric navigation using EEG.
•    The effect of disfiguring features on face discrimination: an EEG study using fast periodic visual stimulation.
•    Delay discounting: Do the eyes have it?
•    Individual differences in social cognition: An investigation into emotion regulation.
•    Mental health and personal characteristics in Bardet-Biedl syndrome and syndromes associated with sight loss.
•    Assessing game therapy for aphasia: A new approach to aphasia rehabilitation.
•    Transcranial direct current stimulation and word learning.

International students and post-study work visa

Aston University is a diverse, close community and welcomes international students. Students from over 120 different countries choose to study with us every year. Aston is not only a great place to study, based in the centre of Birmingham it’s also a great place to live.

As a university, we welcomed the creation of a new immigration route which will enable international students to remain in the UK for two years after they have completed their studies to find work. The new post-study work visa will apply to international students starting undergraduate and postgraduate courses from 2020. More information on post-work visas.

Gina Rippon

“Our MSc aims to give students an understanding of contemporary research into the relationship between human brains and typical and atypical behaviour. Working in the Aston Brain Centre with established researchers and their teams, students will be given hands-on experience of cutting-edge neuroscience research tools and techniques. One-to-one supervision and training will prepare students to become established researchers in their own right – our graduates can be found in brain research labs across the world.”

Professor Gina Rippon, Emeritus Professor and author of ‘Gendered Brain: the new neuroscience that shatters the myth of the female brain’.

Entry requirements

We welcome applications from candidates interested in our course who have the skills and desire to excel. All candidates are considered on an individual basis based on their qualifications, experience, references and motivation.

The information contained on this website details the typical entry requirements for this course. Applicants with alternative qualifications may wish to enquire with the relevant admissions teams prior to application whether or not their qualifications are deemed acceptable. For less commonly encountered qualifications this will be judged on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the academic admissions tutor.

All applicants typically require:

  • Upper second class honours degree (2:1) from a recognised university in psychology, neuroscience or a related life science such as biology, or a related physical science such as engineering or computer science. More information on international degree requirements can be found on our Aston in your country webpage.
  • Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to provide evidence of an English language qualification. English language test requirements may be waived where students’ previous degree was studied in an English speaking country. Find out more about our English language requirements.
  • For International Students intending to do a foundation year. Click here to find out more.

More advice on applying to Aston.

International foundation programmes

If you don’t meet our entry requirements, we have a range of pathway programmes offered by our partner, ONCAMPUS Aston, which you can complete to progress onto one of our degrees.

Learning, teaching, assessment


Learning on the courses is delivered mainly through small-group lectures, hands-on practicals and immersive workshops. Lecture material is recorded and made available on-line through a virtual learning environment (VLE). 


This course utilises a range of assessment methods as appropriate to the topic, including: 

•    Coursework
•    Examinations
•    Practical work
•    Oral and written presentations 
•    Dissertation research project.

Key staff

Programme Director: Joel Talcott is a Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience within the School of Psychology and the Aston Institute of Health and Neuro development. His main research interests include developmental disorders of cognition and language, development of reading and component skills in children, educational neuroscience, and genetic and environmental influences on trajectories of brain structure and function.

The following members of staff regularly teach on this course and can be approached to supervise the dissertation research project (availability may vary from year to year).


Practicals and lab-based teaching make use of the state-of-the-art research facilities housed on the Aston campus. These include:

  • The Institute of Health and Neuro development (neuroimaging and brain science labs, including Magnetic resonance imaging, magnetoencephalography, EEG and brain stimulation) 
  •  ALIVE (Aston Laboratory for Immersive Visual Environments): Virtual reality suite with dedicated behavioural and brain recording facilities.
  • Psychology Laboratories: computer-based behavioural experiments motion and posture analysis and eye tracking).
  • A computer suite and project room with hot-desking is available for masters students on this programme.

EEG Laboratories: dedicated, state-of-the-art EEG systems within the Aston Brain Centre and Psychology laboratories.

TMS Laboratory: research and training in the applications of brain stimulation in the Aston Brain Centre.



Aston University - VR

ALIVE research facility: 4-screen Virtual Reality ‘CAVE’, head mounted displays (HMDs), omni-directional treadmill, mocap Laboratory, and driving simulator.

Fees and scholarships

Home students (2023/24)


International students/EU (2023/24)


The United Kingdom government has confirmed that European Union (EU), other European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals commencing academic courses in England from August 2021 will no longer be charged the same tuition rates as Home students.


At Aston University we are committed to supporting the most talented and hardworking students to achieve their potential by providing a range of scholarships to help lower tuition and living costs. Find out more about our scholarships here.

20 per cent postgraduate alumni scholarship

Take advantage of the Ferguson Scholarship supported by the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Charitable Trust dedicated to improving educational opportunities for students who would not otherwise be able to consider studying in the UK. Seven £10,500 will be available to students from Africa and India for the 2021/22 academic year. For more information, click here.

Career prospects

This course has been designed to provide postgraduate-level education and training for graduates who want to specialise in the area of cognitive and affective neuroscience, continue onto PhD level study, or enhance their CV with a research-related Masters qualification.

Previous cognitive neuroscience students at Aston have moved on to a variety of careers including:

  • PhD studies: destinations of recently successful PhD applicants include Aston, Cardiff, Derby, Liverpool, Sussex and Warwick.
  • Research-related roles: e.g. Research Assistant, Data Analyst (for example for the NHS).
  • Education: e.g. Science Teacher, Educational Consultant.

Frequently asked questions

Why study Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience at Aston University?

This course will provide you with specialist training in cognitive and affective neuroscience, alongside helping you to develop a wide range of transferable research and communication skills. During your year with us, you will benefit from access to state-of-the-art facilities, and work closely with active and highly renowned researchers in this exciting field. 

What research could I do in my final dissertation project?

Your final research project is a fundamental element of this programme, it is your opportunity to utilise all of the knowledge and skills gained so far and investigate a research topic of your choice.

Past projects have included:

  • Memory enrichment by social context: A virtual reality EEG research project.
  • Realistic navigation of virtual mazes: Distinguishing egocentric vs allocentric navigation using EEG.
  • The effect of disfiguring features on face discrimination: an EEG study using fast periodic visual stimulation.
  • Delay discounting: Do the eyes have it?
  • Individual differences in social cognition: An investigation into emotion regulation.
  • Mental health and personal characteristics in Bardet-Biedl syndrome and syndromes associated with sight loss.
  • Assessing game therapy for aphasia: A new approach to aphasia rehabilitation.
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation and word learning.
What facilities will I have access to?

Aston University is home to a wide variety of facilities and equipment that will benefit you during your studies. From the onsite Aston Institute of Health and Neurodevelopment and its various labs for MEG, EEG, (f)MRI and TMS research, to dedicated study space for postgraduate students. 

Why should international students choose Aston University?

Study at Aston University and you will be part of a multi-cultural community located at the heart of the dynamic city of Birmingham. Our courses are practical, inspired by industry and many have internationally recognised accreditations. Renowned for our employability prospects and connections to business and industry, we provide outstanding careers support, advice and placement opportunities.

For those interested in working in the UK after they have graduated, the UK Government have created a new post-study work visa. See here for more information.

Register your interest
Register your interest form

The information you provide will be used by Aston University to contact you about the University, courses you may be interested in and events you may wish to attend, for anything outside of this purpose we will obtain your consent. Your data is subject to Aston University’s privacy policy and cookie policy.  For further information, please visit