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Motor Control

Module titleMotor Control
Module codeESS2222
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Genevieve Williams (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module will cover contemporary issues in motor control; a subject inextricably linked to all other facets of human biology. This module will cover topics associated with neurology, neurophysiology and movement patterns in a dynamic, theoretical and applied format. You will be taught by academics who research at the forefront of these fields.

The module is suitable for Exercise and Sports Science and Psychology students as interdisciplinary pathways.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to develop your understanding in the following three key areas using a research-enriched learning and teaching style:

  • Provide an introduction to neurology, and an understanding of the neural basis of sensorimotor control.
  • Develop a critical understanding of neuromuscular factors that influence the control of human movement.
  • In line with relevant literature, critically understand the application of dynamical systems theory to the study human movement.

During laboratory sessions, you will apply your knowledge to areas of human motor control, gaining practical experience with software such as Brainvoyager and OpenSim and in the quantification of movement coordination.

Graduate attributes. As part of this module you are expected to develop the following skills:

  • Scientifically grounded investigatory skills in pursuing contemporary concepts and draw conclusions
  • Building confidence as a communicator in discussing independent study and literature in seminar settings
  • Contemporary communication skills in creating a VLOG
  • Enquiring mind in pursuing further reading on topics covered in the module
  • Computer skills in line with working in contemporary software packages

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe and examine the neural basis of sensorimotor control
  • 2. Critically appraise neuromuscular factors that influence the control of human movement
  • 3. Explain and demonstrate the basic analytical skills required to understand published material in line with the dynamical systems theory of motor control

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Apply theoretical concepts to practical problems
  • 5. Analyse and evaluate data objectively
  • 6. Gain a working knowledge of brain analysis and stimulation techniques

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Communicate technically using Video Log (VLOG)
  • 8. Pursue contemporary concepts and read further on topics covered in the module

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The syllabus will span three key areas in motor control:

Neuroscience and neuropathology of motor control:

  • The motor brain: overview of the brain areas involved in motor control and the techniques involved in understanding brain function (neurophysiology, neuroimaging, neurostimulation). Practical experience will be gained using software such as Brainvoyager.
  • Perception and action: sensorimotor control of the upper-limbs, mirror neurons, lateralisation of function, including the use of diagnostic tests.
  • Neuropsychology of motor control: overview of motor disorders (ataxia, stroke, apraxia), and then deep dive into basal ganglia function by comparing Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

Neuromuscular underpinnings of motor control

  • Including topics such as the energy minimisation hypothesis for human movement - why we choose to move the way we do, applied to tasks such as upright standing; the neuromuscular factors influencing human movement, with practical experience such as exploring the effects of muscle parameters on movement in OpenSim; and the sensory feedback and muscular control of human movement with analysis of postural sway and balance using force plate and EMG measures.

Dynamical systems theory (DST) of motor control

  • An introduction to dynamical systems theory of motor control, with a focus on understanding and quantifying coordination and variability in human movement.

Peer assessment session

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Lectures (11 weeks x ~2 hours of content and tasks)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Online computer or laboratory classes (11 weeks x ~2 hours of content and tasks)
Guided Independent Study34Weekly reading and tasks
Guided Independent Study22Preparation for weekly formative assessment quiz
Guided Independent Study10Preparation for thirdly summative assessment quiz
Guided Independent Study40Preparing and developing assessment submission


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Weekly multiple choice quiz11 x 6 minutes (6 questions)1-4, 6Instant computer generated grade and description of correct answer
Peer review session2 hours1-5, 7-8Written and oral peer review, followed by summary by the lecturer

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Multiple choice examination at the end of each topic block 11620 minutes1, 4-6Instant computer-generated grade and description of correct answer
Multiple choice examination at the end of each topic block 21620 minutes2, 4-6Instant computer-generated grade and description of correct answer
Multiple choice examination at the end of each topic block 31620 minutes3, 4-6Instant computer-generated grade and description of correct answer
VLOG (presentation) on a chosen topic from the module5210 minutes1 or 2 or 3, 4-5, 7-8Written or audio


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
MCQ block 1MCQ block 11, 4-6Referral/deferral period
MCQ block 2MCQ block 22, 4-6Referral/deferral period
MCQ block 3MCQ block 33, 4-6Referral/deferral period
VLOGVLOG1 or 2 or 3, 4-5, 7-8Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Text books:

  • Davids, K., Bennett, S., & Newell, K. M. (2006). Movement system variability. Human kinetics.
  • Enoka, R. M. (2008). Neuromechanics of human movement. Human kinetics.
  • Freund, H.-J., Jeannerod, M., Hallett, M., & Leiguarda, R. (Eds.). (2005). Higher-order Motor Disorders: From neuroanatomy and neurobiology to clinical neurology. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Nowak, D., & Hermsdörfer, J. (Eds.). (2009). Sensorimotor Control of Grasping: Physiology and Pathophysiology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511581267


  • Human Movement Science
  • Journal of Biomechanics
  • Experimental Brain Research
  • Motor Control

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE page:

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Motor behaviour, motor learning, neurology, neurophysiology, dynamical systems theory

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date