Course Coordinator: 
Marylka Yoe Uusisaari
Neuromotor Systems

The course will start from the mechanisms of animal movement, including the evolutionary, ecological and energetic aspects; we will explore the anatomical and mechanical features of the body machinery (such as muscles, bones and tendons) before investigating the structure and dynamic function of the neuronal circuits driving and controlling movements. We will thus examine neuronal function at various levels, allowing the students to familiarize themselves with many fundamental concepts of neuroscience; the theoretical lectures will be complemented by practical exercises where the students will study movement in themselves and their peers in the motion capture laboratory environment as well as with more classical approaches. 

This course aims to provide an introductory-level overview of the structures and mechanisms underlying brain function in the context of generating and modulating physical movement of the body.
Course Content: 

BLOCK 1 (4 weeks): The physical reality of movement

  • Environments, evolution and fitness
  • Movement styles - running, flying, swimming
  • Mechanics of movement - forces, angles, timing
  • Body mechanics - muscles, bones, tendons

BLOCK 2 (5 weeks): Movement generation

  • Reflexes and drive in neuromuscular control
  • Principles of neuronal circuit function
  • Pattern generation in spinal systems
  • Ascending brainstem pathways - reflex modulation
  • Descending brainstem pathways - drive and modulation of locomotion

BLOCK 3 (4 weeks): Moving with purpose

  • Motor cortex - commanding descending pathways
  • Somatosensory cortex - monitoring movement
  • Adjusting movements - sensory feedback, cerebellar systems
  • Motor learning
  • Linking motor behavior to cognitive function
Course Type: 
Participation and Discussion 40%; In-term exams 30%; Project work 30%
Text Book: 
  • Animal Locomotion (English Edition) 2nd Edition by Andrew Biewener Sheila Patek ISBN-13: 978-0198743163
Reference Book: 
  • Handbook of Brain Microcircuits, by Shepherd & Grillner (2010) Oxford University Press
  • Principles of Neural Science, by Kandel, Schwartz, Jessell, Siegelbaum, Hudspeth (2012) MIT Press
Prior Knowledge: 
This is a basic level course, which will be adjusted according to the interests of enrolled students. No prior knowledge assumed, and suitable for out-of-field students.  However, an Introductory Neuroscience course is required if you intend to continue with additional Neuroscience courses.

For AY2023, this course runs in Term 2.