PY0567 - Plants, Diet and the Brain

What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will learn about the effects of plants and plant compounds in our diet, plant-based drugs, and herbal extracts with potential therapeutic value. The human psychopharmacology of these plant derived chemicals will be covered including their effects and mechanisms of action. As such the module feeds into the ‘health’ pathway.
In terms of content, the module will cover basic nutrition; the impact of plant-based food on human health, cognition and mood; the psychotropic effects of drugs such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and cannabis, as well as their emerging therapeutic use; and the potential of herbal extracts such as sage and ginkgo biloba in the treatment of conditions such as dementia and anxiety. The psychopharmacology of these plant-based compounds will also be explored in terms of how they interact with human neurotransmitter systems.
This area of psychology is very dynamic and our knowledge is constantly expanding. As such, this module is heavily research-led with many individual research studies discussed in each lecture. This will assist you in developing a critical approach to evaluation of the literature and the methods employed.
At the end of the module you will understand what it is to be a biological psychologist and the main assignment is a real-world example of the kind of report you would compile if you decided to work in this area. This will draw together all that you have learned and allow you to demonstrate your understanding of how a good research project should be designed.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through a mixture of lecture and workshop styles. Some of the content lends itself best to traditional, lecture-style teaching and at other times you will be asked to engage with this information in groups in more of a workshop style. Technology enabled learning will also support this process; e.g. the use of Panopto to record the tutors’ voice over particularly complex slides/materials. It is also anticipated that you will seek support in the form of individual tutorials with the module tutor as and when you need it. Independent study is a key aspect of this module and it is vital that you spend the requisite tutor directed and student led independent study time consolidating information from the lectures/workshops.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will be supported within scheduled teaching time by the module tutor who will make a variety of resources available to you. You will also be supported by directed learning and group work/activities during the workshop elements. All of the academic resources you require will be available via the eLearning Portal. This will include lecture slides, related supplementary materials, recommended readings, video clips and other technology enhanced learning. Discussion board use will also be encouraged to facilitate group communication.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
• MK1: You will learn to apply critical analysis to key positions and debates within health psychology and plant research specifically.
• MK2: You will develop your skills in understanding the methodological and ethical issues when considering and designing protocols to test the effects of plant interventions in humans.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• MIP1: You will demonstrate understanding of the real-world applications of this discipline by engaging with an assignment that mirrors what a biological psychologist would report.
• MIP2: You will take charge of your own career development learning, through critical self-evaluation and reflection on the relevance of the module for career enhancement and future learning.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
• MPV1 You will understand and appreciate the value of research in the creation of new knowledge and practice. In doing so you will develop your characteristics as a Northumbria Psychology graduate.

How will I be assessed?

Formative Assessment
You will engage in group discussions and practical activities, your engagement with these will be formatively assessed throughout the module (MK1; MK2; MIP1)

Summative Assessment
1. A 3000 word, 2 part assignment worth 90% of the module mark. This assignment is representative of a report completed by a real-world biological psychologist requiring the student to argue for the efficacy of a plant-based intervention (part 1) and then to design a paradigm to test its effects in humans (part 2). (MK1; MK2; MIP1; MPV1)

2. A 500 word reflective report on how this module fits into the pathway (award) you are working towards, and how contributes towards your career. This is a pass/fail assessment and contributes 10% to your module mark. (MIP2)

Formative feedback will be provided within the workshops and individual, written, summative feedback will be provided on your submitted assignment.

Formal feedback on the reflection will be provided by each student’s personal guidance tutor at an individual meeting, arranged by the student.





Module abstract

Plants make up the majority of food in our diet, providing a wide-range of compounds that are increasingly being recognised for their importance in maintaining optimal physical and mental health. Historically, plants formed the basis for many of our currently prescribed medicines, yet many more plant and herbal extracts exist showing potential therapeutic value in conditions such as anxiety and dementia. Plants also provide us with most of our recreational drugs, initially taken for their mind-altering properties but also now emerging as potential therapeutic agents. The aim of this module is to provide you with an understanding of the psychobiological effects of plants in humans. It will focus on the human psychopharmacology of plants consumed in our diet as well as those taken for psychoactive effects and those with potential for therapeutic use. It will explore the effects that these diverse plants, and their components, have on the human brain and other health parameters, as well as examining their mechanisms of action. The module will adopt a Research-Rich Learning approach throughout, with a large proportion of the content drawing on research conducted within the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre at Northumbria University. A mixture of lecture and workshop styles will be adopted to enrich the learning experience. You will be assessed by an assignment and a reflective piece of writing on how understanding of content and skill development on this module can improve your employability

Course info

UCAS Code C800

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with optional study abroad year

Department Psychology

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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