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).

Action Lab News

August 2016

On August 26, we held our annual Lab Advance 2016, a joint workshop between the Newman Lab at MIT (Neville Hogan) and our Action Lab. 13 students from the 2 labs presented their research. The schedule can be viewed here

July 2016

Dena Guo received the Schaefer fellowship from the Department of Biology to support her research Coop in the Action Lab, July - December 2016.

June 2016

Meghan Huber successfully defended her dissertation: Assessing and enhancing complex motor skill learning in virtual environments: basic insights for rehabilitation. Pictures can be viewed here (1 2 3 4).

December 2015

Dena Guo won an Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors Award from Northeastern University for her project “Timing Accuracy in a Throwing Task”.

December 2015

Meghan Huber received a Graduate Thesis/Dissertation Research Grant from Northeastern University for her project “Falling into a Rhythm – The Emergence of Periodicity in Discrete Motor Actions”.

December 2015

Dena Guo won a Lawrence Research Fellowship for her project “Human Timing Accuracy in a Throwing Task”.

August 2015

Dena Guo won a Senior Thesis Scholarship from the Museum of Science, Boston, to conduct and display her research in the Living Laboratory in the museum throughout fall and spring 2015/2016. The title is: Pitchers and pianists: Timing in discrete and rhythmic motor skills.

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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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