The central interest of research in the Action Lab is the acquisition and control of goal-directed human movements. What organizational principles are at work in movement coordination? What principles guide the acquisition of novel skills? Specifically, our research focuses on the acquisition of novel perceptual-motor skills and on the manipulation of complex objects. The theoretical framework that pervades our studies interprets the actor as a dynamical system, which is high-dimensional, nonlinear, and capable of producing coordinated and adaptive actions. Our research pursues a three-pronged research strategy consisting of:

  1. an empirical component with behavioral experiments on human subjects using virtual environments,
  2. theoretical work which develops mathematical models of the behavioral task using dynamical systems, and
  3. brain imaging and stimulation studies that investigate the cerebral activity accompanying coordinated actions.

More recently, we have extended these experimental paradigms to individuals with neurological disorders such as dystonia and autism and to the elderly.

Our research is supported by the National Institutes of Health (R01-HD087089, R01-HD081346, R21-DC013095) and the National Science Foundation (NSF-NRI 1637854, CRCNS-1723998, M3X-1825942).

Action Lab News

October 2018

Salah’s new paper in Chaos was chosen as an editor’s pick. See the short description of the research on stability in our cup of coffee task in Scilight. It also received press coverage in Physics Today.

July 2018

Zhaoran will be Dr. Zhaoran Zhang from now on. Congratulations to a fabulous performance! And here she is.

May 2018

On May 26, our team completed the outreach activity at the Museum of Science on: “Catch the mouse: Prediction in interaction with dynamic objects.” Between June 2017 and May 2018 our team collected 449 subjects: Hannah Tam, Se-Woong Park, Rashida Nayeem, Zhaoran Zhang, Abigail Cahill, Jim Papadopoulos, Salah Bazzi, Michael Graham, Jeffrey Zhu, Anne Sigl, Ellesse Cooper, Oliver Cervantes, Kaleb Noruzi, and Sasha Dubinsky (in no specific order). The video shows the 3-person shift on the final day: Abigail Cahill, Jeffrey Zhu and Oliver Cervantes. Congratulations!

May 2018

Salah Bazzi had his paper to ICRA 2018 accepted only 6 months after starting in the lab. Continue!

April 2018

Zhaoran Zhang received the Award for Outstanding Graduate Research from the College of Engineering. Well deserved!

April 2018

After 17 interviews for Medical School, and 10 offers Dena Guo is heading to Cleveland Clinic with a full scholarship and stipend. Wonderful!!

April 2018

Dagmar gave a TEDx talk at Northeastern which should be posted soon.

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Selected Recent Publications

  1. Bazzi, S., Ebert, J., Hogan, N., & Sternad, D. (2018). Stability and predictability in human control of complex objects. Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science, 28(10), 103103.
  2. Maurice, P., Hogan, N., & Sternad, D. (2018). Predictability, effort, and (anti-)resonance in complex object control. Journal of Neurophysiology, 120, 2, 765-780.
  3. Zhang, Z., Guo, D., Huber, M.E., Park, S-W., & Sternad, D. (2018). Exploiting the geometry of solution space to reduce sensitivity to neuromotor noise. PLoS Computational Biology, 14, 2, e1006013.
  4. Sternad, D. (2018). It’s not (only) the mean that matters: variability, noise and exploration in skill acquisition. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 20, 183-195.

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