Neurobiology of Addiction


The material presented in this course is taken from the course ‘Issues in Brain and Behaviour’ – a 60-point postgraduate course within the Frontiers in Medical Science strand of The Open University’s M.Sc in Science Programme. It consists of two topics that are of immense worldwide social, economic, ethical, and political importance – ‘Addiction’ and ‘Neural Ageing’. Of note is that in the course, the term ‘neural ageing’ is used to mean ageing as it impacts upon the nervous system and behaviour – not the ageing of other body systems or organs.

The material presented in this course examines, at a Master’s level of post-graduate scholarship, some of the biological and psychological issues underlying addictive behaviours and the ageing of the nervous system.

The aim of this course is to present a short exploration of original research articles and detailed commentaries taken from the course, within a framework that highlights the complex nature of addiction and neural ageing. The content of the material requires background knowledge and understanding at the level of a first degree in science or in a science-based subject. Open University students studying SD805 have access to a wide range of course materials, internet resources as well as tutor support.

In this standalone course the emphasis is therefore very much on your own assessment of the material to derive an academic understanding of the relevant issues being considered. Having read and critically evaluated the material, you should nevertheless be able to appreciate that a coherent scientific explanation of addiction and neural ageing requires the integration of information obtained from different levels of biological and psychological analysis.

Learning Outcome

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • understand the complex nature of addiction and neural ageing from both biological and psychological perspectives
  • recognise the contribution of different scientific disciplines to our understanding of several contemporary topics in addiction and neural ageing
  • critically evaluate and discuss specific scientific arguments related to addiction and neural ageing
  • communicate the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to studying issues in biological psychology, using addiction and neural ageing as examples.

Course Curriculum

1. Issues in brain and behaviour
Popular conceptions about addiction and neural ageing 00:35:00
2. Addiction
Specific Issues in Addiction FREE 01:30:00
Central Questions in Addiction 01:00:00
3. Addiction: selected readings
Addiction – article 1 01:00:00
Addiction – Article 2 FREE 00:15:00
4. Neural ageing
Definitions of Ageing 00:30:00
Genes and Ageing 01:00:00
The Ageing Brain 01:30:00
Consequences of Neural Ageing 02:00:00
5. Neural ageing: selected readings
Neural Ageing: Article 1 00:20:00
Neural Ageing: Article 2 00:10:00
6. Levels of explanation
Addiction – Acknowledgements FREE 00:10:00
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