Module: 0220632: Nerve Muscle & Movement


Organiser: Dr Chris Elliott

Version: Feb 2005 for Summer Term 2006

Course Committee: P&D

To Be Taught: Summer term 2006

Summary: Understanding nervous systems is one of the most exciting areas of modern biology. This course ranges from molecular to behavioural neuroscience, relating the action of the CNS to the biomechanics of movement. It covers

Excitable Tissues: the way in which the individual nerves of a nervous system work: nerve conduction, synaptic transmission and sensory transduction, how synapses are constructed, including how genes control nervous construction. These aspects lead to module 0230725.

Brain and Nervous systems: how nervous systems work as a whole, including discussions of perception, learning and memory but concentrating primarily on peripheral nervous systems and the invertebrate CNS. The vertebrate CNS will be dealt with more in the third-year option, Module 0230746.

Muscle: how muscle fibres generate force and movement. The concept of myosin being a prototype molecular motor.

Movement: How animals move. Musculo-skeletal system. Walking, swimming, buoyancy, flight. Scaling;. Basic mechanics elasticity, force, work, power, efficiency etc Quite a bit of biophysics.

The full lecture plan from 2004 is on-line at

Aims: The educational aims of this course embrace the Teaching Aims of the Biology Course as laid down by the Board of Studies. This course aims to generate enthusiasm, interest in and knowledge of the nervous and muscular systems, and their role in the generation of movement

  1. Biological Knowledge

a.      Excitable and inexcitable membranes. Membrane potentials. Chemically and electrically regulated ion channels. Direct and indirect control of ion channels.

b.      Organisation and construction of nervous systems: how genes control cellular movement and interactions during development of the CNS.

c.      Information flow in nerves, synapses and nervous systems.

d.      Structure, function and mechanisms of integration in nervous systems, especially the systems controlling movement

e.      Structure, function and mechanisms of molecular motors and cellular movements. transduction of chemical energy to mechanical work.

f.        Structure, function and mechanism of musculo-skeletal systems how external forces and mechanical work are done by animals and cells.

g.      Underlying physical principles of electricity, mechanics and mathematics.

h.      Development of key ideas in the subject due to the imagination of our predecessors (linking names to ideas).

i.         The experimental basis of these key ideas. Critical experiments.


2. Personal Skills

a.      Ability to relate lecture and reading material

b.      Ability to use and analyse literature critically

c.      Group skills will be developed principally in the Case Study practical

d.      Self-development throughout.

Prerequisites: None

The course contains 14 lectures, with some demonstrations, and 1 Case Study.

Assessment of the lecture component is by a test at the end of term 6 that will involve questions requiring up to paragraph answers, plus Critical Analysis of a previously seen paper. A Case Study must be undertaken with a group report assessed. In Summer 2004 the contributions of the assessments are as follows:


Approx Weight

Case Study




Lecturers and organisation:

Lectures: Dr C J H Elliott, Prof. John Sparrow, Dr S Sweeney.

Maximum numbers: Limited by lecture theatre space.

Student workload:

Lectures: 14 hr Case Study: 12 hr Tutorials: 0 Other contact (specify): 0

Total Contact hours: 14 hours

Private study: 74 hours

Staff teaching commitments: 

Staff initials




Lecture sessions




Safety and timetabling information: Please fill in an entry in the table below for each teaching session in the module.














Slide, Powerpoint and O/h Projector

CJHE (1-2),
SS (3-4)
JCS (7-10), CJHE (11-14)


Lectures 1,5 will be accompanied by a demonstration, which needs setup time in the lecture theatre for 1 hour beforehand, without students

C. J. H. Elliott, Thursday, 28 April 2005