Full course description
Every day activities such as riding a bicycle, typing a summary and drinking a cup of coffee require the continuous interaction of brain systems that serve sensory perception and systems that control the body’s muscles. In other words, most of the things people do require sensorimotor integration. Since sensory perception (visual as well as auditory) is covered extensively in other courses, the main focus here will be on the somatosensory and motor system as well as on the transformation and processing of sensory information for motor control. Initially, basic processes are covered, such as the representations used by primary and secondary somatosensory and motor areas (which parameters are represented, e.g. muscle contractions, joint angles or whole movements?), types of motor control (since processing perceptual feedback takes time, how should individuals use past information to control future actions?), and coordinate transformations (how to get from incoming visual information, coded with respect to our current eye position, to motor commands, coded with respect to our current body posture?). Later in the course, the focus will shift to higher level issues such as motor learning, action selection and decision making, and predicting the actions of others. All topics will be discussed in the context of cognitive neuroscience research so that students learn how these topics can be investigated using a range of different techniques from behavioural experiments to electrophysiological recordings and brain imaging methods.
- describe and explain the neural mechanisms underlying sensorimotor processing (internal models, coordinate transformations, action selection);
- critically assess opposing views, the supporting experimental data and the research methods used to obtain them;
- explain the neuro-behavioural correlates of motor learning and decision making, and the role of mirror neurons in action understanding.