Fall 2018 - BPK 423 D100

Selected Topics in Kinesiology IV (3)


Class Number: 9530

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 4 – Dec 3, 2018: Wed, 9:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 5, 2018
    Wed, 8:30–11:30 a.m.

  • Instructor:

    Dylan Cooke
    1 778 782-7667
    Office: L8001 (Go down one floor from the BPK office, walk east toward applied sciences; L8001 is on left)
  • Prerequisites:

    To be announced in the Undergraduate Schedule of Classes and Examinations.



Selected topics in areas not currently offered as formal courses within the undergraduate course offerings in the School of Kinesiology. The topics in this course will vary from term to term, depending on faculty availability and student interest.


Number of weeks: 13
Hours per week: Lecture, 3 hours (no tutorials or labs)
No final exam

In this advanced seminar, students will explore how the brain changes on a systems level. We will focus on the causes, mechanisms and consequences of plasticity in mammalian sensorimotor cortex during development and adulthood, also touching on other brain systems and evolution. Students will read 2-4 research papers a week and take turns leading discussions. Readings will be challenging, but students are not required to master them completely. They should arrive at class having read and thought about them, ready to ask questions and participate actively in discussions. Guest researchers whose papers we read will occasionally join discussions (in person or via video conference). Although neuroscience coursework will provide helpful background, the most important prerequisites for this inquiry-based seminar are curiosity and an interest in learning to read scientific papers like a scientist.

Outline of sessions (subject to change):

Week 1:  Introduction and assignment of papers.  How to read a scientific paper. Review of concepts relevant to assigned                papers: Cortex, cortical areas, evolution, homology, mammals, comparative approach, methods.
Week 2:  Cortical maps and brain evolution
Week 3:  Vision as systems neuroscience model 
Week 4:  Posterior parietal cortex, frontoparietal networks, tool use, phantom limb
Week 5:  How early experience alters cortical maps; critical periods
Week 6:  Restoration of critical period plasticity
Week 7:  Cross-modal plasticity: Visual signals in auditory cortex; brain-machine interface
Week 8:  Cross-modal plasticity: Effects of early blindness and early deafness
Week 9: Adult plasticity / Technology and brains
Week 10:  Robot-assisted training after spinal cord injury restores control of walking
Week 11: Epigenetic mechanisms / RNA editing in cephalopods
Week 12: Socioeconomic status / Aging and plasticity
Week 13: Culture, language and epigenetic transmission of phenotypic characteristics


At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Effectively communicate the important findings and methods of a scientific paper in a presentation.
  2. Analyze and critique scientific papers and graphical data with confidence.
  3. Discriminate the most important findings in a scientific paper and describe how they were obtained.
  4. Demonstrate metacognition.
    1.    Identify the most important gaps in their own understanding of a paper.
    2. Formulate questions to address those gaps.
  5. Convince themselves and others using data. 
  6. Write clearly and concisely.
  7. Critically evaluate scientific literature on neuroplasticity. 
    1.    Critique data collection methods and assumptions.


  • Participation (in-class and online discussions) 24%
  • Presentations and leading discussions 26%
  • Assignments 50%


Notes on grading: Participation (in-class and online discussions).
Students must be intellectually engaged and actively participate in discussions throughout each class meeting as well as in online discussions on Canvas taking place in the days before each seminar. This means asking questions when you don’t understand and answering others’ questions when you do.

Presentations and leading discussions.
Students (sometimes in small groups) will lead lively discussions on their assigned papers, using the weekly reading responses from classmates to guide them to topics that were difficult or interesting for others. Like their classmates, leaders are not expected to understand every detail of their paper but should work to articulate shared gaps in the class’s understanding.

Assignments include written work such as brief reactions to papers and “scouting reports,” written by presenters, which provide additional background information and explanation that will be useful to their classmates before they start reading. Assignments will include individual and group work.  

Missed class policy for this seminar (in addition to standard BPK policies):
Because so much of the learning in this course derives from interactions in the seminar it is crucial for students to be present at every class meeting. Unexcused absences from ANY class meeting will substantially affect one’s class participation grade. Absences due to medical/family emergencies and unavoidable conflicts (e.g. important athletic tournaments) can be balanced by writing a paper. Instructor must be notified as soon as possible about potential absences, preferably in the first class meeting. Students with a contagious disease or travelling for an unavoidable conflict can attend class via video chat to avoid writing a paper.

[Standard SFU BPK policies on grading, academic honesty, and missed exams apply.]



No cost for materials/books. Readings will be posted on Canvas.


2-4 scientific papers each week. Papers will be posted on Canvas.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

It is the responsibility of the student to keep their BPK course outlines if they plan on furthering their education.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html