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Postgraduate Certificate Biological Psychiatry

Postgraduate Certificate Biological Psychiatry

Course Title Postgraduate Certificate Biological Psychiatry
QualificationPostgraduate Certificate
Duration One year (part-time)
Next Intake September 2020

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Vision is the art of seeing things invisible -  Jonathan Swift

The Postgraduate Certificate course in Biological Psychiatry is designed to address the major neuroscience developments and challenges in psychiatry and their clinical application.  The TCD Discipline of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine has established expertise in neuropsychiatric genetics, molecular neuroscience, neuroimaging, neuropsychology, clinical trials, biostatistics and research methodology. The Discipline has strong links with the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience with several of its senior members being PI’s.  In recent years members of the Discipline have authored landmark papers in leading scientific journals such as New England Journal of Medicine, Science, Nature, Nature Genetics, Molecular Psychiatry, American Journal of Psychiatry, Archives of General Psychiatry, Human Molecular Genetics and Biological Psychiatry

The course will be run in the Trinity Centre for Health Sciences, St. James’s Hospital, Dublin 8.  The Centre has modern teaching facilities and computer labs and hosts laboratory facilities for molecular neuroscience practicals.

Course Description

This Postgraduate Certificate course explores the relationship between basic principles, biological factors and clinical features in mental health disorders, allowing students to translate scientific understanding into their training for effective clinical practice. It is aimed primarily at medical graduates with a background or interest in Psychiatry (or related health care disciplines such as Psychology, Neurology, or Biological Sciences) who wish to develop their research skills and broaden their research interests.  The Postgraduate Certificate course also addresses the research methodology and pre-clinical scientific components of the curriculum for Basic Specialist Trainees in Psychiatry, which is similar to the syllabus for the UK MRCPsych exams.  The course will also be of interest to those wishing to develop their knowledge of the biological basis of brain function and psychiatric disorders. The course will aid in equipping participants with the skills to progress in a career in Psychiatry and mental health research or to embark on a masters or doctoral programme.

Course Objectives

This is a one-year part-time course

Neuropsychiatric disorders are common with one in four of the world’s population suffering from various forms of mental, behavioural and neurological disorders.  Within the 15-44 age group, mental disorders account for 6 of the 20 leading causes of disability. According to the World Health Organisation, mental disorders account altogether for about 13.5% of the global burden of disease and this is projected to rise to 14.2% by 2030.  The proportion of the burden is actually greatest in high-income countries (21.4%) but is now growing in lower- and middle-income countries due to improvements in infectious disease management, increasing numbers of younger adults entering the age of risk for common neuropsychiatric disorders (e.g. schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression) and also the expanding ageing population at risk of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The neurobiology underlying most common neuropsychiatric disorders is not yet clear.  However, remarkable advances in neuroscientific methods, such as molecular biology, genetics, cognitive neuropsychology, and functional imaging, are beginning to provide a clearer understanding of the complexity and multifactorial aetiology of many disorders.  It is hoped and expected that, over the coming decades, such advances in biological psychiatry will aid diagnosis and inform rational therapeutic strategies.

Providing a new Postgraduate Certificate course in Biological Psychiatry with a curriculum incorporating basic research methodology, cognitive neuropsychology, neuroimaging, molecular neuroscience, molecular psychiatry, and neuropsychiatric genetics will fulfill an important educational need for a range of disciplines involved in evidence-based mental health care practice.  For example, the subject matter covered in the course makes up a large proportion of the curriculum for post-graduate professional training in Psychiatry for doctors.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this programme, students should be able to:  

  1. Apply skills in critical appraisal of existing research, hypothesis formulation, study design, and data analysis
  2. Evaluate the role of genetic and molecular factors in neuropsychiatric disorders
  3. Use knowledge of basic human psychology and development to describe both normal and abnormal mental states 
  4. Describe emerging technologies used in studying functional neuroanatomy, behaviour,  cognition, and information processing relevant to psychiatric disorders
  5. Explain contemporary molecular diagnostic, neuropharmacological and therapeutic mechanisms as applied to mental health care practice
  6. Describe the molecular and cellular basis of a wide range of neuropsychiatric disorders
  7. Discuss and communicate scientific data and concepts with mental health professionals and society at large

Course Timetable

The Postgraduate Certificate in Biological Psychiatry is a one-year part-time course.  The course is run during term time on Thursday afternoons from 14.30 to 19.00  Students are required to take a total of 5 modules over two semesters. The modules are awarded the following ECTS credits and take place during the indicated TCD Calendar weeks(

Module 1: Statistics and Research Methodology and Statistics (10 ECTS; TCD Calendar weeks 5-11)
Module 2: Molecular Neuroscience & Genetics (5 ECTS; TCD Calendar weeks 12-16  )
Module 3: Basic and Developmental Neuropsychology (5 ECTS; TCD Calendar weeks 21-25)
Module 4: Neuroimaging and Biomarkers (5 ECTS; TCD Calendar weeks 26-30)
Module 5: Molecular Psychiatry (5 ECTS; TCD Calendar weeks 31-35) 

Programme Structure

Assessments will be based on a combination of formative assessment for each Module, based upon in-module coursework, and summative in-module coursework plus an end-of-module written examination.  All course work will be double-marked.  In terms of weighting, Module 1 contributes 10 ECTs while Modules 2-5 contribute 5 ECTs each.

How to Apply

Applicants should normally hold a relevant first degree with at least 2nd class honours or equivalent professional qualification (e.g. MB degree). All applicants should provide two academic references before their application can be considered. 

Language requirements for students whose first language is not English are as per the requirements in the Calendar part 3 for a given academic year.  Application for admission to the course should be made on-line via SITS normally not later than 30th June 2020 for the proposed year.  Late applicants may be considered provided places are available.  Applicants may be required to attend for interview. 

Closing date for applications is 30th June 2020

Apply online


Up-to-date information about course fees can be found at the Academic Registry.

Contact Us

Course Director: Professor Declan McLoughlin
Co-ordinator: Dr Eimear Doody
T: +353 1 249 3343