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 stroke and dystonia, and to the elderly.

Selected Recent Publications

  1. Nasseroleslami, B., Hasson, C.J., & Sternad, D. (2014). Rhythic manupulation of objects with complex dynamics: Predictability over chaos. PLoS Computational Biology, 10(10),e1003900.
  2. Park, S., 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., Muller, H., & Hogan, N. (2010). Coordinate dependence of variability analysis. PLoS Computational Biology, 6(4), e1000751.

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Action Lab News

March 2015

Dagmar participated in the Chinese TV show “The Brain” on March 20, 2015, as the international science judge. Here is the trailer introducing her.

December 2014

Courtney Stead received a Provost Research Award for her undergraduate research on “Neural and Behavioral Crosstalk During Learning a Polyrhythmic Bimanual Skill”, supervised by Se-Woong Park.

December 2014

Julia Ebert received a Provost Research Award for her undergraduate research on “Human Control of Complex Objects: Stability in the Face of Perturbations”, supervised by Dagmar Sternad.

November 2014

Julia Ebert was awarded the prestigious Marshall Scholarship to pursue a master’s of research in bioengineering at Imperial College London.

July 2014

Fei Ye defended her masters thesis on “Rhythmic Manipulation of a Complex Object.”, July 11, 2014.

July 2014

Meghan Huber spends a six-month-long research internship at the Max-Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen, Germany, July - December 2014.

June 2014

Dagmar spends six months of her sabbatical leave at the Max-Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen, Germany, June 2014 - January 2015.

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