Skip to content

Neurobiology of mental disorders

Explore the bases of the most common mental disorders - from the genes to the behaviors

← Back to courses
CIVIS focus area
Open to
  • Master's
  • PhD
Field of studies
  • Medicine and Health
  • Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP)
Course dates
29 April - 24 May 2024

The course aims to offering a global picture of the neurobiology of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, depression and anxiety.

The course will address the neurobiological bases of these disorders from a global point of view to a particular focus on each of the disorders. The different approaches used to study psychiatric disorders - such as genetic studies, post-mortem studies, animal models, in-life programs and neuroimaging studies - will be discussed. Also, their benefits and disadvantages will be analysed in a critical way.  

The objective of this course, with a mainly basic character, is to bring the student closer to the triggering causes of mental illness from a biological point of view. However, the highlights of the clinical part and psychological treatment will be included to help students generate a more global vision. 

The organization of the subject will be as follows:

  1. A more general module is to be developed from the genetic bases to the environmental and neurodevelopmental processes that are part of the susceptibility factors to mental illness.
  2. The second module will focus on each of the main psychiatric diseases from the perspective of their symptoms and signs and their relationship with the alterations of the correct brain functioning.

The course will be taught in theoretical classes, practices and seminars. 

Main topics addressed

  • History of mental disorders
  • Genetics of mental disorders
  • Main mental disorders
  • Neurobiology and bases of the disease
  • Animal models
  • Brain regions involved in psychiatric disorders

Learning outcomes

At the end of this course, the students are expected to:

  • know the main genes involved in the development of psychiatric diseases, as well as the environmental and developmental causes; become familiar with the techniques that allow the study of these factors and the methodology applied in each case;
  • differentiate and categorize the different psychiatric disorders and their specific causes, establishing a relationship between the cellular-histological-anatomical structure and function and the observed pathological consequences;
  • know the history of pharmacological/ psychiatric/ psychological treatments, along with recent progress and future research directions in this field;
  • work in teams and distinguish important information in scientific papers related to neurobiology of mental disorders; be able to organize the information and to present it in groups to specialized audience.
Dates: 29 April - 24 May 2024 Total workload: 80 hours
Format: Blended ECTS: 3*
Locations: Madrid, Spain Language: English (B1+)

*Recognition of ECTS depends on your home university.

Physical mobility

During the week of physical mobility, the group tasks and the specialized seminars will be performed.

Nevertheless, some of the research seminars could be conducted online, since some of the professors may not be able to attend to the venue during that week.

Theoretical classes:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety and Stress
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Autism
  • Suicide
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychological therapy
  • Animal models of mental illness
  • Neuroimaging


  • Comparison of animal models of stress
  • New therapies, new directions


  • Examination of brains in animal models of schizophrenia
  • Evaluation of animal behavior in models of mental illness
  • Recognition of symptoms in patients with psychiatric illness

Virtual part

The virtual program contains 7 hours of synchronous and asynchronous theoretical classes distributed in 3 weeks, 2-3 hours per week. These online classes will be the first ones of the program, in order to offer the students the bases of the knowledge in mental disorders.

In this way, we will start with the History of Mental Disorders, Genetics of Mental Disorders and we will introduce the main mental disorders that our society is suffering nowadays (Depression, Anxiety/ Stress, Schizophrenia, Autism, Bipolar Disorder). The classes will be taught by professors with expertise in each of the presented fields from the 3 involved Universities.

These classes will provide to the students the basic knowledge of the disorders that we are going to study in the physical part. The classes will be recorded and uploaded to the common space on internet, to be accessible to the students in case they need to review them.


This course is open to students enroled in a Master's or PhD program in Neuroscience, Biomedicine, Medicine, Psychology, or any other related discipline at CIVIS member universities. Students in their last years of their degree in biology, biomedicine, medicine, psychology, or similar could also be accepted.

The course will be fully taught in English, hence proficiency in English is mandatory in order to be able to apply. Also, skills like critical thinking, data analysis, social interaction and group work are highly appreciated.

The program will be included in the master in Neuroscience of Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

NB: Visiting Students - Erasmus Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for your selected CIVIS programme, you must be a fully enrolled student at your CIVIS home university at the time you will be undertaking the programme. Click here to learn more about the eligibility criteria.

This course is also open to students with the same academic profile, who are enrolled at a CIVIS strategic partner university in Africa. Please check here, if you can apply and this particular course is open to applications from your university. Successful applicants will receive an Erasmus+ grant covering travel and subsistence costs during their stay. Applicants should be willing to extend their stay at the host university for 1-3 weeks for additional research and/or training purposes.

Application process

Send your application by filling in the online application form by 7 November 2023. Don't forget to also include:

  • CV

  • Motivation Letter

  • Research project outline

All applications will be evaluatedd based on the applicant's motivation, relevance of the CV and student's status (Master, PhD, degree...)

Apply now


Students should show maturity, a high level of implication and understanding of the subject.

There will be a continuous assessment (30% of the final mark). The students will be evaluated for their implication during the theoretical classes, with the questions or the discussions raised.

Furthermore, we will evaluate the group task (seminars), taking into consideration:

  • the involvement of the students,
  • the performance of the task (power point preparation and bibliographic research) and
  • the outcome (delivery of the seminar and feedback given to the peer’s seminars).

Finally, we will evaluate if the students perform the practical part in a satisfactory way.

For the final exam (70 %), the students will have to solve a problem-based situation by designing a scientific project. We will pose a scientific issue that has to be approached by the methodology studied during the program. The students will have to wrap the knowledge acquired during the classes, seminars, and practical part to develop a correct project to study the posed scientific issue. Students will have two weeks after the course to deliver the project/ exam.

Blended Intensive Programme

This CIVIS course is a Blended Intensive Programme (BIP): a new format of Erasmus+ mobility which combines online teaching with a short trip to another campus to learn alongside students and professors across Europe. Click here to learn more about CIVIS BIPs.

GDPR Consent

The CIVIS alliance and its member universities will treat the information you provide with respect. Please refer to our privacy policy for more information on our privacy practices. By applying to this course you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

All the instructors participating in the course are well known researchers in the field of psychiatry and mental diseases. We will cover different disciplines of scientific research like animal models, genetics, anatomy, pharmacology etc. The professors are faculty members of Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Sapienza Università di Roma, University of Barcelona, Center of Molecular Biology in Madrid and others.