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Mind and Body, constantly interacting: What do they say to each other?

Our new MSc in Psychology and Neuroscience of Mind-Body Interface offered by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience at King’s College London aims to answer this question.

I am Alessandra Borsini, a senior research scientist based at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), who has been investigating the intersection between the Mind and the Body in the context of mental health disorders for more than 15 years.


I will have the privilege of leading this new MSc in Psychology and Neuroscience of Mind-Body Interface, but before I delve into the details of the course, let me explain why studying Mind-Body interaction is so important...


Why do we need to study the Mind?

The mind is what we often associate with phenomena like sensation, perception, thinking, reasoning, memory, belief, desire, emotion, and motivation. The French philosopher René Descartes defined minds as “thinking substances”. Nowadays, we know that the mind is characterised by a complex biology, which we refer to as the brain, that is the main organ of the mind.


We need to study the brain if we want to understand the mind.


We can learn about the mind when observing how neurons interact via generation of new synapses and neurotransmitters production, or when studying how astrocytes and microglia regulate immune and metabolic brain processes.

Why do we need to study the Body?

On the other hand, the mind alone is not able to sustain life. The body comprises several organs, and peripheral systems, such as the digestive and cardiovascular systems, which overall regulate the survival of the organism via intricate biological processes. Studying the body will allow to assess, evaluate, diagnose, and track the person’s health.


But, do Mind and Body interact? The answer is: yes. They talk to each other constantly…


The mind and body interact in powerful ways that affect a person's health.


The digestive system is regulated by the mind (brain), and symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and fear can dramatically affect the function of this system.


Emotions can also affect other body functions. Stress can trigger anxiety or exacerbate many diseases and disorders, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, leading to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Stress can also cause muscle tension, leading to physical pain, including in the neck, back, or head, and ultimately contribute to the development of chronic fatigue symptoms, or fibromyalgia.


Remarkably, the brain can also alter the immune response. For example, depression can affect the way the immune system reacts to challenges, and make a person more susceptible to infections such as the common cold.


However, the Mind-Body interaction is a two-way relationship


Not only can psychologic factors contribute to the onset or worsening of a wide variety of physical disorders, but also physical symptoms and diseases can affect a person's psychological state. People with recurring or chronic physical disorders are more vulnerable to develop mental health symptoms, such as depression or anxiety. Depression may then worsen the effects of the physical symptoms and add to a person's low quality of live.


Therefore, understanding how mind and body communicate and what they say to each other have become fundamental questions both in the scientific community, as well as among clinicians.

Our new MSc in Psychology and Neuroscience of Mind-Body Interface aims to address these questions.

Our programme will educate and inspire students in a unique way that integrates theoretical and practical knowledge on both the psychology and the neuroscience underlying brain/mind processes, and their connection with physical symptoms.


The course has been developed so that you will gain both a theoretical and practical understanding of the interaction between psychological processes, the nervous system, and the stress and immune system. It will focus on both the clinical and molecular mechanisms of the brain and the mind in the context of mental health disorders, as well as on their interaction with body disorders and their underlying mechanisms, which in turn influence and are influenced by the brain/mind.


If you choose this course, you will be primarily based at the IoPPN, a flourishing and expanding faculty within King’s College London. The IoPPN is ranked 2nd in the world for psychology and psychiatry (US News, Best Global Universities), and it is home to one of the world's largest centres for mental health and neuroscience research.

During the course you will be able to learn from some of the world most prominent scientists and clinicians in the field of psychiatry, psychology, and neuroscience with an interest in Mind-Body interface, and work with them for your thesis project. Our research and clinical partners’ laboratories are located across the entire IoPPN, within the Department of Psychological Medicine, Psychosis, Basic and Clinical Neuroscience, Neuroimaging, Child and Adolescence Psychiatry, and The Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre.


You may wonder which modules the MSc consists of…


We will offer both clinical modules — Psychology of Mind-Body Interface, Therapeutic Approaches of Mind-Body Interface — and basic science modules — Neuroscience of Mind-Body Interface. If you have a clinical background, this MSc will provide you with additional clinical expertise, as well as a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying clinical symptoms. On the other hand, if you have a biological background, you will be able to expand your basic science knowledge, while having the opportunity to learn about clinical symptoms and treatment approaches.


And, what about real-life clinical and research experiences?


As part of the course, we will be offering both clinical and research placements, which are aimed to provide you with practical experiences.


Clinical placements will run across a variety of mind-body interface clinics within King’s College Hospital (KCH), King’s Health Partners-South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM), including:

These clinics are directly adjacent to the IoPPN and Maudsley Hospital.


If you choose this placement, you will have the opportunity to be part of real-life clinical research environments and activities, including shadowing other clinicians during their sessions and conducting interviews for clinical diagnosis yourself!

The Maudsley Hospital

If instead you are interested in research placements, these will run across mind-body interface research laboratories within the IoPPN, including:

During the placement, you will be involved in the recruitment of patients for ongoing research studies, in handling and processing human samples, or in designing and performing experiments on cells!

But what if you are more interested in science writing rather than in a clinical or research placement?


Well, as part of the course we will also be offering placements within the editorial team of the Inspire the Mind magazine!


This magazine focuses on the intersection between mental health, science, and society. You will also be able to contribute to their associated podcast, At The Back of Your Mind.


During the placement you will work closely with the magazine editorial board, which includes clinicians, researchers, psychiatrists, and marketing specialists from King's College London, who are experts and passionate about mental health, and the intersection between mind and body.


Overall, acquiring clinical, research and editorial skills will be of extreme value for employers across both the academic and the industry sector

Due to the wide range of content taught, and the variety of placements opportunities, this MSc will generate endless career paths. You may go on to enhanced careers in mental health as clinicians and/or policy makers, conduct further full-time study in an academic research environment (i.e., PhD) or in taught clinical courses (i.e., Doctorate in Clinical Psychology), gain employment in an academic, clinical, or pharmaceutical organisation, or across research funding bodies. You may also enter scientific publishing!


If you are curious to learn more about how Mind and Body interact, join our new MSc course in Psychology and Neuroscience of Mind-Body Interface starting next September 2024.


Applications open in December 2023 !! Find more here


If you would like to ask for more details about the course please do get in touch with me!

(Dr Alessandra Borsini, Course Leader: alessandra.borsini@kcl.ac.uk)


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