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:
- an empirical component with behavioral experiments on human subjects using virtual environments,
- theoretical work which develops mathematical models of the behavioral task using dynamical systems, and
- 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.
Action Lab News
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.
On July 31, 2015, we held our annual Lab Advance 2015, a joint workshop between the Newman Lab at MIT (Neville Hogan) and our Action Lab. Eleven students from the 2 labs presented their research. The schedule can be viewed here and a pictture is here.
Dagmar won the Best Paper Award at the International Conference for Virtual Rehabilitation in Valencia, Spain: Sternad, D. (2015).From theoretical analysis to clinical assessment and intervention: Three interactive motor skills in a virtual environment. IEEE Proceedings for the 11th International Conference on Virtual Rehabilitation.
Julia Ebert graduated with honors in Behavioral Neuroscience and a minor in Computer Science. She also received the Skavenski Award as the best graduate in Behavioral Neuroscience. (She is the second undergraduate student from our lab who received this award)
Dagmar participated in the Chinese TV show “The Brain” on March 20, 2015, as the international science judge. Here is the trailer introducing her.
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.
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.
Selected Recent Publications
- Nasseroleslami, B., Hasson, C.J., & Sternad, D. (2014). Rhythmic manupulation of objects with complex dynamics: Predictability over chaos. PLoS Computational Biology, 10(10),e1003900.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sternad, D., Park, S.-W., Muller, H., & Hogan, N. (2010). Coordinate dependence of variability analysis. PLoS Computational Biology, 6(4), e1000751.