Graphic design showing three heads

“It ought to be generally known that the source of our pleasure, merriment, laughter and amusement, as of our grief, pain, anxiety and tears, is none other than the brain.” – Hippocrates (c. 460 – c. 370 BCE).

At a Glance

  • Live online course
  • 2 hours a week
  • Tuesdays 19:00 - 21:00
  • 10 weeks: April to June
  • Tutor: Angela Richards
  • Fees from £120 to £205
  • Imperial College attendance certificate (T&Cs apply)
Booking link

‘The brain, in fact, has become a pop culture fixture in and of itself’ - Jordan K. Turgeon 

Has neuroscience become popular culture? The brain and psychology have been featured in nearly all areas of popular from movies such as Hitchcock’s Spellbound to the use of the brain’s capacity in brain computer interface devices. 

This course will first provide a brief overview of the brain so that you have some appreciation of relevant brain areas and a brief discussion of what is meant by popular culture. Another relevant aspect of this introduction will be the exploration of myths and misconceptions of psychology and brain science in popular culture. 

We will then go on to consider aspects of the arts (such as visual arts, music literature, film and television) before considering the brain and psychology in technology which is increasing becoming a main fascination in popular culture.   

Each week class participants will be given ‘homework’ in preparation of the next class so that they can engage in discussion for the upcoming week, 

No science or specialist media knowledge is required, though class participants will be expected to contribute to debates and discussion on the relevant topics.   

Online Access to Course

This is a taught live online course which means you will be taught alongside other students on the course by a tutor at a specific time on a specific day of the week. To take part in the course you will need a suitably equipped and internet-enabled device. Please find full details and instructions below under 'Course Delivery'.

Attendance Certificate

Those who attend at least 80% of the course sessions will receive an attendance certificate from Imperial College London upon completion of the course.

Course Information

Course Programme

Course programme (subject to possible minor modification)

Week 1Introduction and overview

  • A very brief description of the brain and a discussion about popular culture.  This will include the four lobes of the brain and some other parts useful for you to know to engage with the classes.  Discussion about popular cultural will consider how this term is used and provide some main examples.

Week 2Neuroaesthetics

  • This rapidly expanding field is concerned with the psychological process of the appreciation of beauty and how this is achieved biologically. For this class, we will focus on how visual art portrays aspects of the brain or its senses. The list of noteworthy works is endless, and therefore poses a challenge on what to select. This class will focus on paintings both well known such as Dalí ‘The Persistence of Memory’; Magitte’s 'Ceci n'est pas une pomme', Gauguin’s “D'où venons-nous ? Que sommes-nous ? Où allons-nous?” and also lesser known works by contemporary British artists such as Joy Richardson.

Week 3Misconceptions of psychology and brain science in popular culture

  • Many, if not all, of us have heard that ‘we only use 10% of our brain’. But what are the other myths about brain science in popular culture. For instance does trepanation really allow increased blood circulation so that people can achieve and sustain a slightly higher state of consciousness?

Week 4Moving images and the brain - Portrayal of the brain’s ability in film

  • We will look at films like ‘Limitless’ and’ Lucy’ that show the ‘star’ character has having enhanced brain capabilities

Week 5Psychological thrillers in film

  • Classics and modern film – for example Spellbound

Week 6: Music to the brain’s ears – the role of popular music in the brain’s alertness

  • Speaking and singing, although having overlaps, also engage different parts of the brain.  n this class we will look at singing and how popular songs can enhance the brain capabilities and even help patients with dementia.

Week 7The online brain – the impact of the internet on the brain

  • Some may say that the internet defines and also epitomises popular culture, so it will be interesting to see how search engines impact on the brain. For instance, do they physically shorten the brain’s attention span?

Week 8Playful brain – the role of the brain in computer games and brain computer interface

  • Much as been written about how online games, with their violent content, arouse certain chemicals in the brain so that players may be more prone to violence. This class will explore whether the parts of the brain activated by gaming does have an impact on behaviour away from the gaming environment.

Week 9: Neurotechnology, AI and machine learning on brain cognition

  • e.g. Neuralink 

Week 10: The smiling brain

  • Laughter, comedy and the brain

Additional Reading

There is no compulsory reading required for this course, and there is no set course text.

Your Tutor

Richards photoDr Angela Richards has a background in experimental methods, the NHS and academia. She has been involved in research into memory in animals and brain scanning in older people. She has taught various aspects of neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Her main interest is in neurodegenerative disorders and technology, especially dementia. As part of a team she was a co-finalist for an Alzheimer’s Society award.


Course Delivery

All our online courses are taught live which means you will be taught alongside other students on the course by a tutor at a specific time. To take part in the course you must be able to attend the online session at the time stated for the course description.

All times stated are British Standard Time.

To take part you will need a computer, or laptop, or tablet computer, connected to the Internet. The device you use will also need to have a camera, microphone and speakers. Most devices now have these built in, but if not you might have to buy them from a computer shop and to connect them to your device.


This course will use Zoom as its online delivery method. Zoom is very easy to use and you do not need to set up a Zoom account to use it. Near the date of your first online session you will be sent an email with a web address (or URL) that will allow you to access the course. This is called the Course Link. All you need do is click on the Course Link in the email and you will be asked to enter your name. This is the name that will be seen by your tutor and other students in the class.

Once you have entered your name you might be asked to enter a password to enter the class. The password will be included in the email sent to you. Once you enter the password you will either be taken directly into the class, or asked to wait in a virtual waiting room until the tutor is ready to let you into the class.

We have also produced a Handy Guide to Zoom [pdf] which gives you basic information on how to use it.

All courses lasting two hours have a 10 minute break in the middle.  For one hour courses there is no break.

Course Fees and Rate Categories

HoursWeeksStandard RateInternal RateAssociate Rate
20  10  £205 £120 £160
All fee rates quoted are for the whole course     Please note there is no early-bird discount available for the April intake courses

Rate Categories and Discounts

Standard Rate

  • Applicable to all except those who fall under the Internal Rate or Associate Rate category, respectively.

Internal Rate

  • Applies to current Imperial College students and staff (incl. Imperial NHS Trust, Imperial Innovations, ancillary & service staff employed on long-term contracts at Imperial College by third-party contractors).
  • Current Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication (CLCC) staff, current CLCC PhD students, Science Communication (Sci Comm) postgraduate students, and students enrolled on an Imperial College 'Language for Science' degree programme should email before completing the online enrolment form.

Associate Rate

  • Students (non-Imperial College)
  • Alumni of Imperial College and predecessor colleges and institutes
  • City & Guilds College Association members
  • Members of the Friends of Imperial College
  • Francis Crick Institute staff, researchers and students
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council staff
  • Harrods staff
  • Historic Royal Palaces staff
  • Natural History Museum staff
  • Science Museum staff
  • South London Botanical Institute Members
  • Victoria and Albert Museum staff
  • Royal Geographical Society staff
  • Royal College of Art and Royal College of Music tutors and other staff
  • Austrian Cultural Forum staff
  • Staff of Exhibition Road Cultural Group (Discover South Kensington) organisations
  • Lycee Charles de Gaulle staff
  • Tutors and other staff of other universities and higher education institutions
  • Tutors and other staff of institution members of the Association of Colleges
  • Residents of postcodes SW3, SW5, SW7, SW10 and W8
  • Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • Members of the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI)
  • Members of the London Zoological Society
  • Members of the Kennel Club

Late enrolment

It is possible to enrol on many CLCC Evening Class and Lunchtime Learning programmes after the course has started. For non-language courses this is subject entirely to agreement by the tutor. For language courses it is subject to agreement by the language Coordinator conducting level assessment. If you want to join a course late do bear in mind there might be work you will need to catch up on, particularly in language courses.

Applicable terms & conditions

Please read the Terms and Conditions [pdf] before enrolling on any course.

Term Dates

HoursWeeksAutumn termSpring termSummer term
 20  10 n/a n/a w/c 26 Apr - w/e 4 Jul 2021 (10 weeks)

Enrolment Process

Web enrolment starts 1 March 2021

Enrolment and payment run through the Imperial College eStore. Please click on the blue booking link on the relevant course page noting below instructions:

  • Our rate categories are explained on the course page and your applicable rate category must be selected on the eStore
  • First-time eStore users please create an account by entering an email address and password. These credentials should also be used for future bookings. Imperial College users please note the eStore is not a single-signon College system
  • The booking process involves entering payment details before your course choice and applicant details are queried on an in-built questionnnaire which completes the process
  • The following email notifications are sent
What is sentWhen is it sentWhat does it contain
1. Payment confirmation Instantaneously following submission of your online application
  • Confirms payment, payment date, order number and course title
  • Should not be treated as a course-enrolment confirmation which is only sent later
2. Enrolment confirmation Sent in due course but likely not before the end of March. Please treat your payment confirmation as confirmation that your applicant details and payment have been received
  • Re-onfirms your course choice
  • Shows your course's term dates
  • Confirms your course' day of the week & time
3. Programme information Usually sent Friday late afternoon the week before term starts
  • Contains further course details incl. classroom location and teacher contact information
  • Provides further general programme details
If you need further help with the above information please ring 020 7594 8756

Any Questions?

If you have enjoyed this course, why not look at other arts and humanities evening class courses at Imperial College. This includes courses on the history of western art from ancient Greece to the nineteenth century, Understanding Modern and Design, the history of film and cinema and Greek and Roman mythology in art. We also run practical courses in art and photography and creative writing classes, and a growing programme of science based evening classes.