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 (R21-HD089731, R01-HD087089, R01-HD081346), the National Science Foundation (NSF-NRI 1637854, CRCNS-1723998, M3X-1825942), the Simons Foundation and an ARM grant.

Action Lab News

November 2019

November 2019: How many engineers does it take to fix a robot? Answer here

November 2019

November 2019: The new Human Movement Lab is ready for use. It is BIG and wonderful and allows investigating all sorts of new tasks. See here Jon Matthis and Dagmar testing the slack line - here

November 2019

November 2019: Lab Clean-up. See a time lapse video here

September 2019

September 30, 2019: We held our 8th Lab Advance at MIT, the annual all-day workshop of the Newman Lab of Neville Hogan and our Action Lab. Everybody gave inspiring presentations of their recent research advances and many ideas developed in the discussions. See here

August 2019

August 01, 2019: Dagmar is covered in a short video about “The Science of Movement”, showing some of our research on ballet dancers with some marvelous pictures of Patrick and Rachele from the Boston Ballet (watch here).

July 2019

July 30, 2019: An evening at the Fenway Stadium: Even though our entire lab was cheering, the Red Sox lost to the Tampa Bay Rays – see pictures here: 1, 2, 3.

May 2019

May 17, 2019: After being in the Action Lab for almost 11 years (PhD and Postdoc), Se-Woong transitioned to his faculty position in Texas - with a party, a medal and a few “tears” from all of us, both current lab members and two previous graduates Meghan Huber and Zhaoran Zhang.

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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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