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-EAGER 1548514, NSF-NRI 1637854).

Action Lab News

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.

August 2017

In August, the Newman lab and the Action Lab convened to our 6th Lab Advance, exchanging our research successes.

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Selected Recent Publications

  1. Nasseroleslami, B., Hasson, C.J., & Sternad, D. (2014). Rhythmic manupulation of objects with complex dynamics: Predictability over chaos. PLoS Computational Biology, 10(10),e1003900.
  2. Park, S.-W., Dijkstra, T.M.H., & Sternad, D. (2013). Learning to never forget - time scales and specificity of long-term memory of a motor skill. Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, 7:111.
  3. Sternad,D., Abe, M.O., Hu, X., & Muller, H. (2011). Neuromotor noise, error tolerance and velocity- dependent costs in skilled performance. PLoS Computational Biology, 7(9), e1002159.
  4. Sternad, D., Park, S.-W., Muller, H., & Hogan, N. (2010). Coordinate dependence of variability analysis. PLoS Computational Biology, 6(4), e1000751.

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