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Brain, mind and mental health

Through a scientific approach, learn to understand the brain, mind and mental health, from childhood through early adulthood and into old age. You’ll study eight topics, including brain development, autism, mood disorders and dementia. You’ll also develop your science communication skills, numeracy skills and your understanding of research methods. This online module is relevant for those with an interest in mental health or who work in health and social care or other professions allied to medicine. You will need some knowledge of biology or health science.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code




  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.

Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
Level of Study
2 8 5

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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I loved this module - it was so interesting and well laid out. I found the workload quite intense; however,...
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Great module but a lot to keep on top off. This module looks at various different topics that affect mental...
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What you will study

In this online module, you’ll study eight topics:

Topic 1: Core concepts
The starting point of this module is to look at the biology of the brain and how this links to our thoughts, actions and behaviours. Topic 1 introduces some different perspectives and viewpoints on ‘brain’, ‘mind’, and ‘mental health’. You’ll then study the basic brain biology that you’ll need to understand the rest of the module. You’ll be able to use our innovative multimedia to help you visualise and explore the relevant brain structures and pathways. You’ll also be introduced to some of the different research approaches that are used to provide scientific evidence that informs our understanding of mental health.

Topic 2: Brain development and mental health
This topic covers how the brain develops before birth and what can happen when this development follows an abnormal path. You’ll see how genes and environmental influences can interact to affect brain development. You’ll be introduced to some childhood developmental conditions and the implications of these for health. For this topic and the following topics, we use case studies to investigate the experience of different individuals with health conditions and the people who care for them.

Topic 3: Autism
This topic focuses on autism, a condition that typically becomes apparent in childhood, but also continues throughout life. You’ll study factors that affect development, including genetic and environmental factors, and the interplay between them. You’ll consider the value of different systems used for diagnosis and you’ll also develop your numeracy skills in the study of prevalence rates.

Topic 4: ADHD
This topic covers another condition that typically appears in childhood, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and discusses what it is like to experience the condition, the diagnostic process, and psychological and biological processes associated with the condition. You’ll explore the different ways that ADHD is managed, using medication and psychosocial treatments. You’ll also be introduced to the use of animal models for the study of mental health, and how relevant these are to the human condition.

Topic 5: Addiction
This topic moves into an area of mental health that, in common with many other mental health conditions, usually begins in adolescence or early adulthood. You’ll explore the risk factors for developing an addiction, cultural and social attitudes towards addiction, and ways of defining addiction. You’ll study the biological basis of addiction to illustrate that all forms of addiction activate similar brain pathways. The discussion then moves onto possible interventions for the prevention of addiction and treatments for addiction, including biological and psychological approaches.

Topic 6: Psychosis
Various types of psychosis, including schizophrenia, are explored in this topic. You’ll look at cultural attitudes and social stigma associated with psychosis, and discuss the risk factors, diagnosis and co-morbidities in relation to psychosis. You’ll study the biological basis of schizophrenia in particular, leading into a discussion of the treatment and management of schizophrenia using drug treatments or psychosocial interventions.

Topic 7: Depression
Stress, anxiety and depression are commonly experienced conditions at all ages, and impact on general wellbeing. This topic focuses on depression. In common with some of the previous topics, there are well-recognised risk factors associated with the development of depression, and various brain changes are implicated in the development of the condition. These biological changes have helped to explain the success of some drug treatments, including commonly used antidepressants. However, the topic also considers some psychosocial approaches to the treatment of mood disorders, such as cognitive therapy.

Topic 8: Dementia
Dementia is a growing problem in our society as people live to a greater age. Knowledge about how to diagnose dementia, the risk factors that contribute to its development, and the pathological changes associated with dementia, has increased substantially over the last few years. This knowledge has led to various theories about the prevention and treatment of dementia, which you’ll explore here. By the end of the topic, you’ll have gained an understanding of how new drug treatments are tested and how to analyse the results of a clinical trial. You’ll also consider the many emerging psychosocial approaches to dementia care.

You will learn

As well as studying key biological and psychological concepts relating to mental health, you’ll also develop your skills for further study in health and biological sciences, including evaluating evidence; handling and presenting data; communication skills; and using information technology.

Vocational relevance

This module will be attractive to anyone interested in a career in health care or health sciences, particularly those professions associated with mental health.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

Future availability

Brain, mind and mental health (SK298) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2023.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2027.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
    End-of-module assessment
    No residential school

    Entry requirements

    There are no formal entry requirements to study this module.

    However, you need appropriate knowledge of biology or health. You’d normally be prepared by completing OU level 1 study as part of one of health sciences qualifications, having passed Science and health (SDK100) or Science: concepts and practice (S112). Alternatively, Investigating psychology 1 (DE100) would be suitable preparation.

    Are you ready for SK298? is a diagnostic quiz to help you decide if you’re prepared to start studying SK298.

    Preparatory work

    You’ll be able to access the module website 2–3 weeks before the module starts, so you can learn to navigate the website and organise your study plan. There will be a module primer, which contains information on basic concepts you should understand from OU level 1 study. You can use this primer to refresh your knowledge before starting SK298, or as a resource throughout your studies.


    Start End England fee Register
    07 Oct 2023 Jun 2024 £1731.00

    Registration closes 07/09/23 (places subject to availability)

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2027.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2024. Fees normally increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

    This information was provided on 09/06/2023.

    Can you study an Access module for free?

    In order to qualify, you must:

    1. be resident in England
    2. have a personal income of less than £25,000 (or receive qualifying benefits)
    3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above, or completed 30 credits or more of OU study

    How to apply to study an Access module for free

    Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible.

    If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069 or you can request a call back.

    Not eligible to study for free?

    Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

    • monthly payments through OUSBA
    • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

    To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

    What's included

    All of the study materials for this module are provided on the module website.

    Computing requirements

    You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11), or macOS (11 'Big Sur' or higher).

    Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

    It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying SK298 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.