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 is that humans control their actions in terms of dynamic primitives. To achieve their dexterous and adaptive actions and interactions with objects and the environment humans exploit the nonlinear and high-dimensional neuromechanical system. Our research pursues a three-pronged research strategy consisting of: empirical component with behavioral experiments on human subjects in real and virtual environments, 2.theoretical work which develops mathematical models of the behavioral task using dynamical systems, and 3.clinical studies that apply our experimental and theoretical approaches to understand the computational basis of a coordination disorder. Our research is supported by the National Institutes of Health (R01-HD087089), the National Science Foundation (NSF-NRI 1637854, CRCNS-1723998, M3X-1825942), and the Simons Foundation. Research in the Action Lab is dedicated to the experimental and theoretical study of human motor control and learning. Our experiments collect kinematic and kinetic data, complemented by electromyographic and brain imaging data. Physical models of the task provide understanding of the task solutions as basis for comparison with human data.

Action Lab News

February 2020

January 2020: Rashida and Salah have two papers accepted at ICRA 2020 in Paris.

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.

Read More

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.

More Publications