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Unit of study_

PCOL3922: Neuropharmacology (Advanced)

Semester 2, 2021 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This unit of study builds on pharmacological knowledge acquired in the 2000 level pharmacology units of study with a major emphasis on gaining an understanding of neuropharmacology. The neuropharmacology of the major neurotransmitters and their role in neuropsychiatric diseases is explored together with the treatment of conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, movement disorders, stroke, depression, anxiety, epilepsy, pain and schizophrenia.

Unit details and rules

Unit code PCOL3922
Academic unit Pharmacy
Credit points 6
A mark of 70 or above in [(PCOL2011 or PCOL2021 or MEDS2002) or (BMED2401 and BMED2402 and BMED2405) or (ANAT2010 or ANAT2910) or (PSYC2010 or PSYC2910 or PSYC2015)]
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Jonathon Arnold,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam (Record+) Type B final exam Final exam
Short answer and MCQ
40% Formal exam period 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9
Presentation Tutorial presentation
Oral presentation
8% Multiple weeks 10 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO9 LO8 LO6 LO5 LO3 LO2
Participation Tutorial participation
Tutorial attendance and participation
2% Multiple weeks n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO9 LO8 LO6 LO5 LO3 LO2
Skills-based evaluation Cell culture competency assessment
Skills based
10% Multiple weeks n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO9 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO2
Presentation PyMOL powerpoint presentation
Oral presentation (7%) with peer assessment (3%)
10% Week 03 3 min
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO9 LO8 LO5 LO2
Assignment Analgesia simulation practical report
Practical report
15% Week 10 1,000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9
Small test Human analgesia quiz
10% Week 12 30 min
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO9 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Tutorial quiz Quiz
5% Week 13 30 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO9 LO8 LO7 LO6
Type B final exam = Type B final exam ?

Assessment summary

  • PyMOL oral presentation: This involves students making a PowerPoint presentation showing the molecule-protein interaction made in PyMOL in the first half (1a) of the practical. The mark you receive takes into account the quality of your work during the classes and your presentation. You will  receive a mark from the class demonstrator (7%) and a peer assessment mark (3%).
  • Cell Signaling competency assessment: During the wet lab-based Cell Signaling practicals, you will learn a number of technical laboratory skills that are routinely used in pharmacological research. You will be assessed on your competency at learning and performing these skills in the laboratory setting.
  • Analgesia simulation practical report: This involves writing a lab report based on the Analgesia Simulation practical in which you perform a simulated in vivo experiment testing analgesic compounds in an animal model. The mark you receive takes into account the quality of your work during the class, as well as the quality of the content and expression of your written report.
  • Human analgesia quiz: You will be quizzed on your understanding of the experiment performed in the first part of your practical (4a), including data analysis and interpretation, your understanding of the drugs used and their mechanisms of action, and the physiological underpinnings of pain that are relevant to your experiment.
  • Tutorial presentation: This involves the presentation of a designated research paper to your class and your tutor. You will prepare a 5-7 slide PowerPoint presentation about your designated paper and then field questions and further discussion for 5 minutes. You must attend tutorial 1 in order to choose your research article and to determine the week you will be assigned to present.
  • Tutorial participation: Satisfactory participation in the tutorial classes is required to gain these marks. As a rule of thumb, you should aim to ask 1 meaningful question or contribute to ongoing discussion on 1 occasion in each class. If you have approved Special Consideration for absence(s), you must forward it to your tutor in order to receive a pro-rata mark adjustment.
  • Quiz: Examines all lecture material up to and including the final lecture. Available on Canvas from week 3 to week 13. Contains 20 questions in 30 minutes. Unlimited attempts are allowed and the mark from your last attempt will be counted.
  • Final exam: All material in the unit of study is examinable, but not all material can be examined within the constraints of the formal assessment process. Students must demonstrate proficiency in the final exam in order to pass the unit.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

PCOL3x22 UoS Outline_FINAL_2019

In order to successfully complete this Unit of Study you must demonstrate a threshold (pass) standard of attainment of the Unit of Study learning outcomes as measured by performance on the Unit of Study summative assessments. This means you must achieve a minimum of a pass standard for both components (in-semester work and final exam) of this Unit of Study. Students who do not reach a threshold standard of proficiency of the Learning Outcomes in either the in- semester assessments or the final exam will receive a maximum mark of 49 FA. Failure to participate in any one or more of the in-semester assessment tasks or the end of semester theory examination may result in a grade of Absent Fail (AF) for the unit.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

The University uses standards-based criteria for assessment, such that marking standards and grade descriptors are used to assess your demonstration of learning outcomes on set assessments. As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.



Explanation / Interpretation

High distinction 

Work of exceptional

Mastery of topics showing extensive integration and ability to transfer knowledge to novel contexts; treatment of tasks shows an advanced synthesis of ideas; demonstration of initiative, complex understanding and analysis; work is very well presented; all criteria addressed and learning outcomes achieved to an outstanding level.


Work of superior
Excellent achievement, consistent evidence of deep understanding and application of knowledge in medical science; treatment of tasks shows advanced understanding of topics; demonstration of initiative, complex understanding and analysis; work is well-presented; all criteria addressed and learning outcomes achieved to a superior level.


Competent work
demonstrating potential
for higher study

Confident in explaining medical science processes, with evidence of solid understanding and achievement; occasional lapses indicative of unresolved issues; treatment of tasks shows a good understanding of topic; work is well-presented with a minimum of errors; all criteria addressed and learning outcomes achieved to a high level.


Work of acceptable

Satisfactory level of engagement with and understanding of topic; some inconsistencies in understanding and knowledge of medical science; work is adequately presented, with some errors or omissions, most criteria addressed and learning outcomes achieved to an adequate level.


Work not of acceptable

Unsatisfactory achievement and engagement with the medical science discipline; inadequate understanding or fundamental misunderstanding of topics; most criteria and learning outcomes not clearly or adequately addressed or achieved; lack of effort/involvement in the unit.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

All assignments must be submitted by the due date and quizzes and exams attended when they are scheduled. Students are expected to manage their time and to prioritise tasks to meet deadlines. Assessment items submitted after the due date without an approved extension using a special consideration or special arrangement form or request will incur penalties. Failure to meet assessment deadlines will incur mark deductions of 5% of the maximum awardable mark available for every day past the due date (for electronic submissions, days late includes Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays). These deductions will continue for 10 calendar days, until the solutions for the assignment are released, or marked assignments are returned to other students. At that point the mark awarded will be zero. For example, on an assignment given a mark of 70/100, the penalty would be 5 marks if submitted up to 24 hours late, resulting in a final mark of 65/100. If the assignment is submitted 6 days late, the penalty would be 30 marks and the final mark would be 40/100. If the assignment is more than 10 days late, submitted after the solutions for the assignment are released, or marked assignments are returned to other students, the final mark will be 0/100.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Orientation lecture; VGICs and targets of drug action Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO8 LO9
Week 02 LGICs and targets of drug action; G-protein coupled receptors (GPCR) 1 Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO8 LO9
1a. PyMOL protein visualisation Practical (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO5 LO8 LO9
Week 03 GPCRs and targets of drug action 2; Transporters as targets of drug action Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO8 LO9
Introduction and paper assignment Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5 LO6 LO8 LO9
1b. PyMOL protein visualisation Practical (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO5 LO8 LO9
Week 04 Monoamines; Neuropeptides Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO8 LO9
2a. Cell signaling (Cell culture) Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9
Week 05 Cellular techniques in neuropharmacology; Molecular techniques in neuropharmacology Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO8 LO9
Glutamate receptors and transporters Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5 LO6 LO8 LO9
2b. Cell signaling (Signaling assay) Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9
Week 06 Genetic techniques in neuropharmacology; Behavioural neuropharmacology Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO8 LO9
2b. Cell signaling (Signaling assay) Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9
Week 07 Opioids and Analgesia; Chronic pain therapies Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO8 LO9
Monoamines Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5 LO6 LO8 LO9
3a. Analgesia simulation Practical (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9
Week 08 Migraine and its treatment; Neuroadaptive basis of addiction Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO8 LO9
3b. Analgesia simulation (Analysis) Practical (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9
Week 09 Treatment of addiction; Cannabinoid therapies for CNS disorders Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO8 LO9
Depression and anxiety Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5 LO6 LO8 LO9
Week 10 Epilepsy (anticonvulsants); Mood disorders (antidepressants) Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO8 LO9
Week 11 Anxiety (sedatives, hypnotics and anxiolytics); Schizophrenia (antipsychotics) Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO8 LO9
Epilepsy and pain Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5 LO6 LO8 LO9
4a. Human analgesia Practical (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9
Week 12 Neuroimmune/Neuroinflammatory diseases and therapies; Parkinsons disease and movement disorders Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO8 LO9
4b. Human analgesia (Data analysis and presentation) Practical (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9
Week 13 Drugs to treat dementia and improve cognition; Wrap up lecture Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO8 LO9

Attendance and class requirements


The University of Sydney Coursework Policy 2014 states: 
55 (2) A student enrolled in a unit of study must comply with the requirements set out in the faculty resolutions, award course resolutions or unit of study outline about undertaking the unit of study, including on matters such as: (a) attendance at and participation in lectures, seminars and tutorials; and (b) participation in practical work.
The Faculty of Science resolutions states:
9(1). Students are expected to attend a minimum of 80% of timetabled activities for a unit of study, unless granted exemption by the Associate Dean.


Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed through the Library eReserve, available on Canvas.

  • Nestler, E.J., Hyman, S.E., Holtzman, D.M. and Malenka, R.C. (2015) Molecular Neuropharmacology: A Foundation for Clinical Neuroscience 3rd ed. McGraw-Hill Medical
  • OR: Nestler, E.J., Hyman, S.E. and Malenka, R.C. (2009). Molecular Neuropharmacology: A Foundation for Clinical
    Neuroscience, 2nd ed., McGraw-Hill Medical.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. Describe and explain centrally acting drugs and their targets at a molecular, protein, cellular, system- and organism-level, and how these drugs are used to modulate CNS-mediated function and behaviours including drugs used to treat somnolence, stress, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, pain, epilepsy, migraine, stroke, movement disorders, and dementia.
  • LO2. Critically evaluate current research methods in neuropharmacology and explain their role in producing new knowledge about CNS pharmacology.
  • LO3. Investigate current topics in neuropharmacology using literature searches and critically analyse the research literature for reliability and relevance of information.
  • LO4. Integrate information from many sources into a coherent and critical appraisal of the currently available information on a specific research area, and communicate a concise, informative response presenting a recommendation or view in written and/or oral form.
  • LO5. Communicate ideas and interpretations of scientific information through both oral and written communication tools using appropriate language and style.
  • LO6. Determine the appropriate experimental design in attaining a specific scientific aim.
  • LO7. Collect, analyse and interpret data derived from experiments and describe and interpret experimental results.
  • LO8. Consider social, ethical and cultural issues that affect scientific enquiry and research methodology.
  • LO9. Take responsibility for your learning, including time management, and work independently as well as within a team.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

Close the loop feedback on your Unit of Study Survey feedback will be provided via Canvas announcement following the release of marks.

Site visit guidelines

There are no site visit guidelines for this unit.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

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