Dagmar Sternad

Dagmar SternadProfessor of Biology, Electrical & Computer Engineering
Motor Control and Neuroscience

Department of Biology
Northeastern University
503 Richards Hall
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115

Lab Website: http://www.northeastern.edu/actionlab/index.htm

Academic Education

  • Ph.D., University of Connecticut
  • M.S., University of Connecticut
  • B.Sc., Technical University of Munich, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, Germany


  • Professor of Biology, Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Physics, Northeastern University, Northeastern University (2008 – Present)
  • Member of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Complex Systems, Northeastern University
  • Manager of Track “Motor Control and Rehabilitation” in the Bioengineering PhD Program of the College of Engineering, Northeastern University (2009 – Present)
  • Assistant, Associate, Full Professor, Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Biosciences, Pennsylvania State University (1995 – 2008)
  • Member of the Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Neuroscience, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Pennsylvania State University, University Park (2004 – 2008)

Other Professional Activities

  • 2011 – present: Regular member of the NIH Study Section Motor Function, Speech and Rehabilitation (MFSR).
  • 2005 – present: Executive Editor of Journal of Motor Behavior
  • 2011 – present Consulting Editor for Biomathematics
  • 2005 – present: Consulting Editor for Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
  • 2006 – 2008: Member of the National Science Foundation (NSF) panel, Perception, Action and Cognition (Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences)
  • 2005 – present: Member of the National Institutes of Health Taskforce on Children Motor Disorders

Research Interests

The central interest of research in the Action Lab is the control and coordination of goal-directed human behavior. What organizational principles are at work when generating functional perceptually guided movements? The theoretical framework that pervades our studies interprets the actor in the environment as a dynamical system, which is high-dimensional, nonlinear, and capable of producing coordinated and adaptive behavior. More specifically, our research agenda focuses on single- and multi- joint human movements in perceptually specified tasks. We pursue a three-pronged research strategy consisting of: (1) an empirical component with behavioral experiments on human subjects, (2) theoretical work which develops mathematical models for movement generation on the basis of coupled dynamical systems, and (3) brain imaging studies that investigate the cerebral activity accompanying movement. More recently, we have extended these experimental paradigms to neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and the elderly.

Teaching Activities

I have been teaching several undergraduate and graduate courses. At the undergraduate level, my courses have provided an introduction into neurophysiological bases and organizational principles of sensorimotor coordination. For graduate students I offer a course that overviews the different disciplinary strands that shape current research in motor control. The course traces the disciplinary roots in experimental psychology, neurophysiology, information theory, control theory and nonlinear dynamics with their predominant questions and tools. A second course is connected with the seminar series Boston Action Club, which comprises invited speakers who present their recent research on motor control. The class consists of discussing the speakers’ papers.