PY0772 - Psychosomatic Pathways to Health and Illness

What will I learn on this module?

You will learn about the psychobiological mechanisms that act as pathways between psychological and behavioural factors and physical and psychological health outcomes. Starting with key biological systems, and using examples including stress, sleep and pain, you will explore how these systems interact, and how they can be measured to provide indices for research and clinical indicators of health and disease.
Topics will include:

Biological mechanisms (e.g., nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular and immune) and their interaction
Biopsychosocial models of health and disease
Biological and clinical indicators of health and disease (practical measurement and analytical techniques)
Individual differences in biological activation and disease vulnerability
Interventions and opportunities for modifying mechanisms

This module meets criteria set by the British Psychological Society (BPS) for the core areas of physiological and psychosomatic disease processes and measurement issues. The assessment for this module requires the application of knowledge into real-world practice and will developing your professional skills with regard to communicating with a range of audiences, and thus enhance your graduate attributes for further qualifications and employability.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through a combination of interactive lectures delivered by experts in the field, seminar-based discussions and interactive
practical workshops. These workshops will give you the opportunity for first-hand experience of a variety of psychophysiological measurement
techniques, for example, testing using bespoke laboratory software in a suite of dedicated research cubicles and the collection of real
biological data which places theoretical learning in an applied context. Directed study will be encouraged through the provision of reading lists
including pertinent research articles that accompany the lectures, and the provision of study questions and topics to read in preparation for
subsequent sessions. Additionally inter-week tasks will be provided to help you to consolidate the lecture content and provide the basis of
group discussions the following week. The combination of interactive lectures, practical workshops, directed and independent study require
critical analysis and will help you to develop conceptual knowledge of the topic areas whilst considering their application in real world settings.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Resources will be available via the e-learning portal, including lecture slides and related supplementary materials, recommended readings
and useful psychometric instruments. Discussion boards, workshop preparation meetings and tutorials will support the planning of
workshops, and current information will be presented to help you to explore a range of potential graduate employment pathways, self-employment
and further study options.

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:
1. Demonstrate a comprehensive
understanding of the key biological
mechanisms relevant to stress-disease
pathways and how these systems interact
2. Critically evaluate key psychobiological
studies from both methodological and
theoretical perspectives and understand
their context within the discipline of Health
3. Demonstrate a systematic understanding of
the practical requirements and restrictions
pertaining to the measurement of
psychobiological mechanisms
Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
1. Effectively convey relevant scientific
knowledge to stakeholders in a real world

How will I be assessed?

Formative assessment:
You will be given feedback during practical
sessions regarding the interpretation of data,
which can be usefully implemented in the
summative assessment.
Summative assessment:
The module comprises one assessment:
A 4000 word assignment written in the format of a
tendered report from a relevant client. The report
requires critical coverage of relevant literature and
the application of knowledge into realistic
recommendations in response to the client’s brief.
This assignment brings together all of your
knowledge about psychosomatic pathways and
their measurements but is written for a non-expert
audience. The style of assignment therefore
assesses your understanding of the topics in the
context of real world application
[KU1, KU2, KU3, IP1]





Module abstract

How do psychological factors get inside the body and cause illness?
This module will introduce you to the psychosomatic concept of health and disease and the psychobiological pathways through which
psychosocial factors can lead to states of psychological and physical ill-health.
You will be introduced to paradigms for observing and activating the psychosomatic mechanisms involved in stress, pain and sleep and will
gain practical experience of how to measure these mechanisms. You will be taught by research leaders in the field using contemporary
research findings and will have unique opportunities to experience a range of research techniques providing you with first-hand knowledge of
measurement and practical applications within the discipline. These will include sessions on laboratory and ambulatory monitoring of
psychobiological mechanisms which will increase your understanding of these mechanisms and enable critical evaluation of the effectiveness
of interventions that seek to improve physical health outcomes by altering psychosocial variables.

Course info

Credits 20

Level of Study Postgraduate

Mode of Study 12 months full-time
1 other options available

Department Psychology

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024

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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