MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience



This MSc is provided jointly by the Department of Psychology and theYork Neuroimaging Centre (YNiC), and recruits contributing faculty from other university departments such as The Hull-York Medical School. The overarching aim of the MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience at York is to provide a bridge between undergraduate study and PhD research in cognitive neuroscience, experimental psychology and imaging methods.

The course has been developed around training and research using neuroimaging techniques, and the experimental and analytical methods on which they depend. Through our specialist modules students are introduced the principles of neuroimaging, gaining hands on experience in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), magnetoencephalography (MEG), eletroencephalography (EEG) or transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), learning how to design, analyze and evaluate neuroimaging experiments, and how such experiments are contributing to our understanding of the brain mechanisms underpining cognition and behaviour. Along the way, students also receive training on generic statistical, writing and research skills, and are exposed to main research topics in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Finally, students complete an extended empirical project, typically using a neuroimaging technique of their choice. The empirical project is supported by the state-of-the-art facilities at YNiC.

What is cognitive neuroscience?

Cognitive neuroscience aims to explain cognitive processes and behaviour in terms of their underlying brain mechanisms. It is a truly interdisciplinary subject which developed through collaborations between cognitive psychology, neuroscience, neurology, computer science and philosophy.

Practitioners take the view that knowledge about the fundamental mechanisms of the nervous system can lead to a deeper understanding of complex mental functions such as memory, language, emotion, perception, attention and consciousness. While modern psychology focuses on understanding the structure of the mind through behavioural experiments, parallel advances in basic neuroscience have centred mainly on cellular and molecular mechanisms of the brain.

Over the last quarter of a century, progress in both areas has led to an increasing overlap between these fields, and the emergence of functional neuroimaging techniques has helped to fuel the growth of a new discipline in which data from neuroscience informs psychological theories and vice versa. Increasingly psychologists and neuroscientists are asking the same kinds of question.

To put it simply: how does the brain think?


Programme Structure

Term one
50 credits
Term two
50 credits
Term three & summer
80 credits
Research Design and Statistics
20 credits

Research Design and Analysis in Neuroimaging

30 credits

Empirical Project
80 credits (MSc Pathway)
Literature Review
20 credits
(Diploma Pathway)
Topics in Cognitive Neuroscience 
10 credits 

Transferable Skills

10 credits 

Basic Principles in Neuroimaging 
10 credits 
Programming in Neuroimaging 
20 credits  

Specialist modules

Specialist modules place neuroimaging in the wider context of cognitive neuroscientific research and introduce students to the principles of neuroimaging the design of neuroimaging experiments and specialist methods required for the analysis of neuroimaging data. These include:

Introduces students to the basic principles that underlie the signals measured in fMRI, EEG, MEG and TMS.  

Provides a practical understanding of how neuroimaging can be applied to different areas of experimental psychology.

Demonstrates how neuroimaging has contributed to our understanding of different areas of psychology and shows how neuroimaging techniques complement other methods in cognitive neuroscience.

Provides an introduction to how programming can be used to generate and present experimental stimuli for neuroimaging experiments and for the analysis of neuroimaging data.

Empirical project

Project enables students to participate in the design and implementation of a theoretically-motivated piece of pure or applied research in cognitive neuroscience providing hands-on training in advanced brain imaging methods, some of which are being developed at York. Topics are chosen so as to be timely and practicable within the relevant resource and time constraints. We regard it as important that the topic not only engages the interest and enthusiasm of the student, but is also a good match to the specialist expertise and knowledge of the supervisor.

Many of our students' projects are published. Each year we offer projects on a wide variety of topics linked to faculty research interests. For example students have used fMRI to investigate the processing of emotional and social cues, representation of semantic knowledge in the brain, disruption of visual cortex in patients with macular degeneration and brain mechanisms underpinning language understanding, face processing, number processing or anxiety and risky behaviour. Students have also used MEG and TMS to investigate brain mechanisms of memory for words and pictures, connectivity patterns between brain regions and auditory perception. Some of these projects are methodological in nature in that they aim to study the analytical strategies to apply in brain research, or they aim to develop the use of new imaging methods.

General research modules

These provide a solid grounding in contemporary issues in psychology and neuroscience, psychological research methods, professional and generic skills.


Modules are assessed through a variety of different assignments and exams including practical reports, essays, multiple choice questions, critical analysis of published papers, short notes on a range of topics, dissertation on the Empirical Project, poster presentation.

Course team

The course team is supported by members of faculty and YNiC staff who supervise projects  and contribute to specialist lectures.



How to apply

You can apply for this course using our online application system. If you've not already done so, please read the application guidance first so that you understand the various steps in the application process.

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If you have any questions about the course, please contact the course director,Professor Tim Andrews.

Entry requirements

A degree or equivalent qualification, normally in Psychology, Neuroscience, Biology, Computer Science, Engineering or a related numerate discipline, and normally at the level of an upper second class honours award. Admissions decisions are made primarily on the basis of information provided on the graduate application form including whether the applicant has familiarity with issues in experimental psychology and its applications; applicants are not normally interviewed. For overseas applicants who do not have English as a first language, the minimum requirement is an IELTS score of 6.5, or a Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English score of B. Higher scores may be required of applicants with atypical academic qualifications.

Admissions procedures

Applications must be made through the Online Application System. There is no formal deadline for applications, and applications are normally considered as they arrive. Places on the course may be limited by available resources. It is therefore recommended that you apply as early as possible.


Information on postgraduate scholarships and loans can be found here.


Backgrounds of applicants

This challenging but rewarding course will best suit applicants who are:

  • Interested in the brain and its workings (see What is cognitive neuroscience? in the overview)
  • Interested in Psychology as a biological science
  • Considering a career in research, especially in psychology, cognitive Neuroscience or imaging methods (many other career choices would be compatible with the general scientific, academic and professional training you will receive as part of the course)
  • Comfortable with computers and statistics

You will also need a good undergraduate degree in a relevant subject and (for non-native speakers) a good level of English language (see Admissions for minimum academic and language requirements).

If you have a more general interest in experimental psychology, or specific interests in the fields of reading, language, development or forensic psychology, you may be better suited to one of our other Masters courses (Master of Research in Psychology, MSc in Applied Forensic Psychology). It is possible to apply for more than one programme.


Destinations of our graduates

Well over half of our graduates go on to PhDs in neuroimaging, psychology or neuropsychology. Most others opt for research and clinical assistantships to gain further experience before undertaking a PhD or training in Clinical Psychology. In both cases, the distinctive skills they gain through the MSc are highly sought after.

Other career options include business, industry, academia and administration.

Here are some destination statistics calculated over a total of 107 students we have taught so far:

DestinationsPercentage of students
Research PhD 60
Research Assistant, Researcher 9
Clinical Training, Clinical Doctorate 5
Other work 4
Assistant Psychologist 2
Other further Study 2


For fee information please refer to the University's standard fees for Laboratory-based Taught Masters courses. Please note that it is the Taught (not Research) fees that apply for this course, and that it is Laboratory-based (not Classroom-based). Information about these fees can be found via the following link.

Who to contact

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