NEURAL CONTROL OF MOVEMENT (BIOL 4863/5863), Spring 2020


Dr. Ari Berkowitz


Richards Hall 304


Richards Hall 111


T Th 3:00-4:15 PM


Tel: 325-3492





Office Hours:

Tu Th 9:30-11:30 AM & W 2-4 PM




or by appointment






Selected articles (at



(+ optional lecture videos & textbook chapter links at and optional books: Principles of Neurobiology–Luo, Garland Science 2015; Governing Behavior–Berkowitz, Harvard 2016)


BIOL 3103 or 3113 or 3833 or 4833 or 5833 or permission of instructor



After completing this course, you should be able to:

1) Summarize what is known experimentally for each of the course's 5 major questions regarding the control of movements by nervous systems.

2) Describe the historical development of major concepts in the field of the neural control of movements.

3) Provide your own answer to each of the course's 5 major questions, supported by experimental data.

4) Extract the main experimental findings from your reading of unfamiliar scientific research papers and explain these findings and interpretations clearly, both orally and in writing.


Written papers (4863: 3 papers; 5863: 4 papers)……………………… 50%

Oral presentations of articles (2).……….……………………………... 30%

Pop quizzes……………………………………………………….…... 10%

Class participation……………………………………………………...10%

Pop quizzes will include material from readings assigned for that day or before. There will be no make-up quizzes.

Grading Errors: If you believe there was an error in a quiz or other mistake in grading, you must give the instructor a written description of the apparent mistake and your reasoning within one week of receiving the grade. The instructor will decide on the complaint and inform the student at a later time.


1) 1)Medical absences: Attendance and class participation are expected. This is a discussion-based course. Some important announcements may also occur during class. Please provide written documentation of any medical absence immediately upon return to class if you wish to make up missed work.

2) Required readings will be available on Canvas at Students are expected to access and download readings as assigned.

3) Some course communications may be via e-mail. Students are expected to access their OU e-mail account (or set e-mail forwarding appropriately) and check for course-related messages daily.

4) At least for the first time, it is strongly recommended that you meet with the instructor to discuss the article before you lead a class discussion. Please read the article carefully before this meeting.

5) Plagiarism: Regulations and responsibilities stated in the Student Code and Faculty Handbook will be followed in the event of academic dishonesty. (See Papers must be written entirely by the student alone; plagiarism will not be tolerated. Student papers should not copy phrases from publications or quote authors. Student papers will be submitted electronically to to check for plagiarism.

6) If a grade of W or I is requested, University policy will be followed.

7) Students with Disabilities: The University of Oklahoma is committed to providing reasonable accommodation for all students with disabilities. Students with disabilities who require accommodations in this course are requested to speak with the professor as early in the semester as possible. Students with disabilities must be registered with the Disability Resource Center [; 730 College Ave., phone: 405-325-3852 (voice) or 405-217-3494 (VP)] prior to receiving accommodations in this course.

8) Religious observances: It is the policy of the University of Oklahoma to excuse absences of students that result from religious observances and to provide without penalty for the rescheduling of examinations and additional required classwork that may fall on religious holidays. If you will miss class for a religious observance, please notify the instructor in advance so we can more easily make arrangements to accommodate your absence.

9) Pregnancy: Should you need modifications or adjustments to your course requirements because of documented pregnancy-related or childbirth-related issues, please contact the instructor as soon as possible to discuss this. Generally, modifications will be made where medically necessary and similar in scope to accommodations based on temporary disability. Please see for commonly asked questions.

10) Harassment: For any concerns regarding gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, stalking, or intimate partner violence, the University offers a variety of resources, including advocates on-call 24/7, counseling services, mutual no-contact orders, scheduling adjustments and disciplinary sanctions against the perpetrator. Please contact the Sexual Misconduct Office 405-325-2215 (8-5, M-F) or OU Advocates 405-615-0013 (24/7) to learn more or to report an incident.



When you read, focus on the Introduction, the Summary or Abstract, and the Discussion or Conclusions (probably read in that order). Try not to get hung up on methodological details or unfamiliar vocabulary. As you read, ask yourself the following questions: What did the author(s) basically do in the key experiment(s)? Why did they choose to do this particular experiment(s)? What was the major finding(s) of this experiment(s)? How did the authors interpret this finding(s) (i.e., what did it tell them about how nervous systems control movements)? Do you think this interpretation of the finding(s) is reasonable? Try to identify the key 1-3 data figures (or data descriptions, for some older articles) in the paper and evaluate whether they really support the authors' conclusions.

When you lead a discussion of a paper, briefly describe the background and motivation for doing this study. Describe the key experiment(s) in as simple terms as possible. Show the key data figures and explain how to read them and what each demonstrates. Summarize the author's conclusions and give your own critique of whether or not the experimental data support those conclusions.

Tentative Reading List


Berkowitz Home Page