Dagmar Sternad

University Distinguished Professor,  Biology
University Distinguished Professor,  Electrical and Computer Engineering
Affiliated Faculty,  Bioengineering

Contact

Office

  • 617.373.5093

Research Focus

Motor control and learning, variability and stability, virtual rehabilitation, dynamic modeling, rhythmic and discrete movements as primitives for action

About


Dagmar Sternad received the BS in Movement Science and Linguistics from the Technical University of Munich and the PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Connecticut. From 1995 until 2008, she was Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor at the Pennsylvania State University in Kinesiology and Integrative Biosciences. At Northeastern, she holds an interdisciplinary appointment in the departments of Biology, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Physics. Her research in computational neuroscience and motor control focuses on learning and control of sensorimotor coordination in humans, both in healthy and neurologically impaired individuals. This work spans behavioral experiments with mathematical models of control and nonlinear dynamics, bridging biology with engineering and physics. The results are documented in over 80 publications in scientific journals and several books. The research has been continuously supported by grants from the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation and Office of Naval Research.

The central interest of research in the Action Lab is the control and coordination of goal-directed human behavior. Adopting a systems-level approach we aim to reveal the organizational principles of the nervous system in interaction with the mechanical system of the body and the environment. Our research strategy intertwines behavioral experiments on human subjects with theoretical work using mathematical models of movement generation. The theoretical approach views the actor in the environment as a dynamical system, which is high-dimensional and nonlinear. Our experimental research focuses on single- and multi- joint human movements including upper limb manipulation tasks and locomotion examined in virtual environments. We have extended these experimental paradigms to study the elderly and patients with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

 

Honors & Awards

  • 2021-22 Fulbright Award to research “Variability and Redundancy in Motor Learning” at the Santa Lucia Foundation at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy
  • Klein Lectureship Award
  • Distinguished Lecturer on Life and the Sciences of Complexity, Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action

Research Overview

Motor control and learning, variability and stability, virtual rehabilitation, dynamic modeling, rhythmic and discrete movements as primitives for action

Predictability in complex object control, Hierarchical coordination of complex actions, Learning to control dynamically complex objects, Neural basis of motor expertise, Characterization of predictive abilities in individuals with ASD using web-based interactive games

Action Lab

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 encephalographic data. Physical models of the task and their mathematical analysis provide understanding task solutions as basis for insight into human control.

Action Lab

Selected Research Projects

Research Centers and Institutes

Selected Publications

  • Balasubramaniam, Ramesh, Haegens, Saskia, Jazayeri, Mehrdad, Merchant, Hugo, Sternad, Dagmar, Song, Joo-Hyun (2021). Neural Encoding and Representation of Time for Sensorimotor Control and Learning. Journal of Neuroscience, 41(5),866-872. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1652-20.2020
  • Bazzi, S. & Sternad, D. (2020). Human control of complex objects: towards more dexterous robots. Advanced Robotics, 34, 17, 1137-1155
  • Bazzi, S., & Sternad, D. (2020). Robustness in human manipulation of dynamically-complex objects through control contraction metrics. IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 5, 2, 2578-2585. doi: 10.1109/LRA.2020.2972863
  • Sharif Razavian, R., Bazzi, S., Nayeem, R., Sadeghi, M., & Sternad, D. (2021). Dynamic primitives and optimal feedback control for the manipulation of complex objects. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2021), Xian, China and virtual, May 30-June 5.

Undergraduate

May 18, 2022

Announcing Summer 2022 PEAK Experiences Awardees

Several engineering students and science students mentored by COE faculty are recipients of Northeastern’s Summer 2022 PEAK Experiences Awards.

Dagmar Sternad

Faculty

Feb 28, 2022

Sternad awarded $3M NIH-MERIT Award for Human Control of Complex Objects

Dagmar Sternad, University Distinguished Professor of Biology, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Physics, and Core Faculty in the Institute for Experiential Robotics, has been awarded a five-year $3M Merit Award from the National Institutes of Health to investigate human sensorimotor control of dynamically complex objects.

Faculty

Dec 23, 2021

COE Professors Selected in Stanford University List of Top 2% Scientists Worldwide

The following COE professors are among the top scientists worldwide selected by Stanford University representing the top 2 percent of the most-cited scientists with single-year impact in various disciplines. The selection is based on the top 100,000 by c-score (with and without self-citations) or a percentile rank of 2% or above. The list below includes […]

Dagmar Sternad

Faculty

Sep 17, 2021

Monitoring the Neurological Functions of Preterm Infants

University Distinguished Professor Dagmar Sternad, biology/ECE, in collaboration with David Paydarfar at the University of Texas at Austin Medical School, was awarded a $1M NSF grant for “Movement as a Vital Sign in Preterm Infants.”

Dagmar Sternad

Faculty

Apr 15, 2021

Sternad Selected for Fulbright Award in Italy

University Distinguished Professor Dagmar Sternad, biology/ECE, has been selected for the Fulbright award for the academic year 2021-2022 to work on “Variability and Redundancy in Motor Learning” at the Santa Lucia Foundation at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy.

Dagmar Sternad

Faculty

Apr 06, 2021

Investigating Timing and Motor Control

University Distinguished Professor Dagmar Sternad, biology/ECE, was awarded a $323K NSF grant for “Emergent motor timing influences perceptual timing.”

award certificate

PhD

Dec 04, 2020

Best student paper at 8th IEEE Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics Conference

Bioengineering student Aleksei Krotov, PhD’24, received a Best Student Paper Award at the 8th IEEE Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics Conference.

PhD

Jul 06, 2020

PhD Student Rashida Nayeem finalist for Best Paper Award in Cognitive Robotics at The International Conference on Robotics and Automation 2020

EE PhD student Rashida Nayeem, advised by Prof. Dagmar Sternad, was a finalist for the Best Paper Award in Cognitive Robotics at the 2020 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation for her paper “Transient Behavior and Predictability in Manipulating Complex Objects.”

Faculty

Apr 02, 2019

Sternad Promoted to University Distinguished Professor

COS/ECE Professor Dagmar Sternad has been promoted to the rank of University Distinguished Professor, the highest honor the university can bestow upon a faculty member, for her achievements in the field of experimental and computational motor neuroscience.

Faculty

Jan 30, 2019

Finding the Right Balance

COS/ECE Professor Dagmar Sternad is studying the motion of dancers from the Boston Ballet to determine how the human body balances itself which could help improve medical rehabilitation as well as stabilizing robots.

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