We host a monthly Boston Action Club, where prominent scientists from Boston, US and international laboratories share their perspectives on a topic falling under a broad interdisciplinary umbrella of Human Motor Control. The talks engender extensive thought exchange, discussions and new insights.

Fall 2022 Schedule

All seminars are held in-person on Thursdays every three weeks at 4-5:30 pm.

The location is 306 Egan building at Northeastern University.

If you would like to be on the mailing list to receive information and updates, send an email to d.sternad@northeastern.edu.

Dagmar Sternad, Sept 22, 2022 @ 4 PM

Dagmar Sternad, Sept 22, 2022 @ 4 PM

Biology, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Physics, Northeastern University

Title: From simple to complex to real skills: A task-dynamic approach to motor control with clinical applications

Abstract: How do humans learn new motor skills or re-learn basic behaviors after injury, such as reaching to drink from a glass without spilling? Much of traditional and current research on motor control has analyzed highly simplified movements in tightly controlled and often virtual experiments to permit rigorous quantitative analysis. However, the challenge is to obtain reliable insights without compromising the challenges of realistic task performance. Our research has examined complex interactive skills in both virtual and real environments with the goal to understand real-life interactions with objects in the environment. To gain quantitative insights, we have developed a task-dynamic approach that starts with analysis of how the task constrains and enables actions and their improvement with practice. Based on mathematical analyses of the modeled task, we study how humans develop strategies that meet complex demands. Using a suite of interactive tasks – throwing or bouncing a ball, transporting a “cup of coffee”, and cracking a whip – we show that humans develop skill by: 1) finding error-tolerant strategies and channeling noise into task-irrelevant dimensions, 2) exploiting solutions with dynamic stability, 3) optimizing predictability of object dynamics. Extending from these experimental platforms, we have also examined how humans interact with a robotic device and how we may assess or help restore functional behavior in neurological patients.

Seungmoon Song, Oct 20, 2022 @ 4 PM

Seungmoon Song, Oct 20, 2022 @ 4 PM

Mechanical Engineering, Northeastern University

Title: Neuromechanical simulation of human locomotion – and its potential usage in developing assistive devices

Abstract: TBA 

Nidhi Seethapathi, Nov 10, 2022 @ 4 PM

Nidhi Seethapathi, Nov 10, 2022 @ 4 PM

Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT

Title: A theoretical framework for locomotor adaptation across timescales

Abstract: TBA

 

David Lin, Dec 1, 2022 @ 4 PM

David Lin, Dec 1, 2022 @ 4 PM

Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University

Title: Neurologic perspectives on motor control after stroke

 

Abstract: TBA

Byron Yu, Dec 15, 2022 @ 4 PM

Byron Yu, Dec 15, 2022 @ 4 PM

Electrical and Computer Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

Title: Brain-computer interfaces for basic science

 

Abstract: TBA

Recorded Talks

Past Action Club Schedule

January 21 Eric Perreault
Biomedical Engineering and Physical Rehabilitation, Northwestern University
“The mechanics of human limbs: how they are regulated by the nervous system and how they influence neural control”
February 11 Aaron Batista
Bioengineering and Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh
“Neural population mechanisms in action”
March 11 James Finley
Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, University of Southern California
“Neuromechanical Principles of Locomotor Learning: From Adaptation to Rehabilitation”
April 1 Robert Sainburg
Neurology and Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University
“Bimanual coordination and impaired coordination in stroke”
April 29 Aude Billard
Robotics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology on Lausanne (EPFL)
“Human-robot interaction”
January 16 Kreg Gruben
Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin
“Biomechanics of postural control in healthy and clinical populations”
Abstract
February 06 Carlos Vargas-Irwin
Neuroscience and BrainGate, Brown University
“Motor Cortex: past, present, and future”
Abstract
March 05 Gabriel Diaz
Psychology and Neuroscience, Rochester Institute of Technology
“Online and predictive control strategies for guiding gaze and the hand when catching”
Abstract
March 26 Ben Dongsung Huh (Cancelled due to Covid-19 lockdown)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and IBM
“Velocity-curvature relation in free movements”
Abstract
April 16 Daniel Wolpert (Cancelled due to Covid-19 lockdown)
Neuroscience, Columbia University
“Probabilistic Models of Sensorimotor Control and Decision Making”
Abstract
September 26 Steve Chase
Bioengineering, Carnegie Mellon University
“Dissecting motor learning processes with brain-computer interfaces”
Abstract
October 17 Steve Collins
Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University
“A discussion of how we design lower-limb exoskeletons and prosthetic devices”
Abstract
October 31 Paul Dizio
Psychology and Neuroscience, Brandeis University
“Sensorimotor and cognitive processes in real and simulated balancing tasks”
Abstract
November 21 Alexander Mathis
Rowland Institute, Harvard University
“DeepLabCut: a deep learning tool for fast, robust, and efficient 3D pose estimation”
Abstract
December 5 Mehrdad Jazayeri
Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT
“Understanding control through the lens of cortical latent dynamics”
Abstract
January 24 Lena Ting
Bioengineering, Emory University
“Revisiting muscle spindle function to understand impaired sensorimotor control”
Abstract
February 21 Pawan Sinha
Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT
“Autism as an impairment in prediction”
Abstract
March 21 Jon Matthis
Psychology, UT Austin
“The Visual Control of Locomotion over Real-world Rough Terrain”
Abstract
April 11 William Warren
Psychology, Brown University
“Flocks, Schools, and Crowds: How Multi-Agent Systems Solve the Degrees-of-Freedom Problem”
Abstract
April 25 Sandeep Robert Datta
Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School
“Inferring Internal from External State Using Motion Sequencing”
Abstract
May 9 Meghan Huber
Mechanical Engineering, MIT
“Enhancing Acquisition and Performance of Complex Motor Skills”
Abstract
September 20 Gabe Nelson and Shervin Talebi
Boston Dynamics
“Exploiting dynamics to improve mobility and balance at Boston Dynamics”
Abstract
October 11 David Lin
Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, BrainGate
“Stroke Motor Recovery: Insights from Neural Structure and Function to Inform Health Systems”
Abstract
October 25 Lisa Barrett
Psychology, Northeastern University
“From essences to predictions: A brain-based understanding of emotion”
Abstract
November 8 Madhusudhan Venkasedan
Mechanical Engineering, Yale University
“On form and function of feet and fins”
Abstract
December 13 Cara Lewis and Sandra Shefelbine
Cara: Associate Professor in Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation Science, and Medicine, Boston University
Sandra: Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering, Northeastern University
“Hip pain and femoroacetabular impingement syndrome: what?s really happening?”
Abstract
January 18 Randy Trumbower
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spaulding
“Acute intermittent hypoxia: a breath-taking approach to restore function after spinal cord injury”
Abstract
February 15 Karen Adolph
Psychology, New York University
“Learning to move and moving to learn”
Abstract | Video
March 22 Steve Scott
Neuroscience, Queen’s University
“Faster than a blink of an eye: fast feedback processing for voluntary motor control”
Abstract
April 5 Sangbae Kim
Mechanical Engineering, MIT
“MIT Cheetah robot: a new design paradigm for physical interaction”
Abstract
April 26 James Monaghan
Neurobiology, Northeastern University
“Neuroplasticity during CNS and limb regeneration in a salamander”
Abstract
September 21 Ed Large
Psychology, University of Connecticut
“Synchronizing movement to music”
Abstract
October 5 Andrew Schwartz
Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh
“Recent progress toward a high-performance brain-computer interface”
Abstract
October 19 Dagmar Sternad
Biology, Elect & Computer Engineering, Northeastern University
“Variability, stability and predictability in the control of dynamic objects: A task dynamic approach”
Abstract
November 2 Neville Hogan
Mechanical Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT
“How do we do it? The paradox of human performance”
Abstract
November 30 Ludovic Righetti
Mechanical Engineering, NYU and Max Planck Institute Tübingen
“Control of contact interactions in robot locomotion and manipulation”
Abstract
December 7 L. Mahadevan
Neurobiology and Anatomy, Harvard University
“Error amplification in strategies and decision making”
Abstract
January 19 Brian Umberger
Kinesiology and Organismic Biology, University of Massachusetts
“Energetics of human locomotion”
Abstract
February 9 John Peter Whitney
Mechanical Engineering, Northeastern University
“Low-impedance robot mechanics: Notes from human physiology and biomechanics”
Abstract
March 16 David Vaillancourt
Applied Physiology, University of Florida
“How spatial visual information exacerbates tremor: from brain to motor unit to behavior”
Abstract
April 6 Simon Giszter
Neurobiology, Drexel University
“Motor modularity: amphibians and mammals after SCI – plasticity versus circuit conservation”
Abstract
April 21 Manoj Srinivasan
Mechanical Engineering, Ohio State University
“Stability and Control in Human Locomotion”
Abstract
September 15 Paul Dizio
Psychology and Neuroscience, Brandeis University
“Control and perception of dynamic balance”
Abstract
October 13 Harry Asada
Mechanical Engineering, MIT
“Humans can control supernumerary limbs independently and simultaneously with their natural limbs”
Abstract
October 27 David Ostry
Psychology and Neuroscience, McGill University & Haskins Laboratory
“Structure and acquisition of sensorimotor maps”
Abstract
November 10 Scott Frey
Rehabilitation Sciences, Washington University School of Medicine
“Plasticity in the adult brain: lessons from current and former amputees”
Abstract
December 1 Joo-Hyun Song
Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences, Brown University
“Paradoxical modulation of motor actions by attention”
Abstract
January 21 Aaron Batista
Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh
“Learning about learning by directly driving networks of neurons”
Abstract
February 18 Mario Sznaier
Electrical and Computer Engineering, Northeastern University
“Perception of human movement based on control theory”
Abstract
March 17 Leia Sterling
Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT
“Surface electromyography as a control input for human-system interaction”
Abstract
March 31 Monica Perez
Neurological Surgery, University of Miami
“Neural control of hand movements (transcranial magnetic stimulation)”
Abstract
April 21 Christopher J Hasson
Physical Therapy, Movement Science, Northeastern University
“In-vivo manipulation of musculo-skeletal properties in humans”
Abstract

 

September 24 Robert Ajemian
McGovern Institute, Brain and Cognitive Science, MIT
“Neural networks, noise and motor learning”
Abstract
October 15 Art Kuo
Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan
“The (apparently) contradictory costs of human motion and locomotion”
Abstract
November 12 Eugene Tunik
Physical Therapy, Movement and Rehablitation Sciences, Northeastern University
“New insights into M1 function: Mapping hand representation and visuomotor adaptation”
Abstract
December 10 Conor Walsh
Wyss Institute, Bioengineering, Harvard University
“Enhancing and restoring mobility with soft wearable robots”
Abstract

 

January 23 Jooeun Ahn
Mechanical Engineering, MIT
“A Simple but Adequate Model of Human Walking”
Abstract
February 13 Vittorio Caggiano
McGovern Institute, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT
“Optogenetics in Motor Control”
Abstract
March 13 Terry Sanger
Neurology, Biomedical Engineering, University of Southern California
“Risk-Aware Control of Movement”
Abstract
April 10 Dava Newman
Aeronautics, Astronautics and Engineering Systems, MIT
“Assessing Astronaut Performance across the Spectrum of Gravity”
Abstract
May 8 Armin Fuchs
Center for Complex Systems & Brain Sciences and Department of Physics Florida Atlantic University
“Diffusion Tensor Imaging in Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries – Acute State and Short-Term Recovery”
Abstract
May 22 Peter Strick
Neurobiology, University of Pittsburgh
“Neuroanatomy of the Brain – Two Stories:
Basal Ganglia Circuits: Thinking Outside the Traditional ‘Loops’
What is the Neural Basis of the ‘Mind-Body Connection?'”
Abstract
September 12 Dagmar Sternad
Biology, ECE, Physics, Northeastern University
“Variability and Stability in Skill Learning and Retention”
Abstract
October 3 Neville Hogan
Mechanical Engineering, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT
“Controlling Physical Interaction”
Abstract
October 24 Andy Ruina
Mechanical Engineering, Cornell University
“Gilders, Bicycles, and Walking Robots – From Passive Dynamics to Active Control”
Abstract
November 21 Bence Olveczky
Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
“Functional Modularity in Motor Skill Learning”
Abstract
December 12 Matthew Goodwin
Health and Computer Science, Northeastern University
“Developing and Applying Wireless Physiological Activity Sensors to Study Individuals with Autism”
Abstract
January 10 Hermano Igo Krebs
Mechanical Engineering, MIT
“Distinct Robotic Training Protocols Differentially Alter Motor Recovery in Chronic Stroke”
Abstract
February 7 Brett Fajen and Jonathan Matthis
Cognitive Science, RPI
“Guiding Locomotion in Complex and Dynamic Environments”
Abstract
February 28 David Paydarfar
Neurology, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Wyss Institute, Harvard University
“Neural Oscillators on the Edge: Harnessing Noise to Promote Stability”
Abstract
March 21 Frank Guenther
Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering, BU
“The Neural Mechanisms of Speech: From Computational Modeling to Neural Prosthesis”
Abstract
April 11 Tamar Flash
Applied Mathematics and Computer Science, Weizmann Institute, Israel
“Motor Planning, Timing, Perception and Coordination: Seeking Common Principles across Tasks and Levels of Representation”
Abstract
May 23 Alvaro Pascual-Leone
Neurology, Harvard Medical School
“Modulating Brain Networks to Promote Functional Rehabilitation”
Abstract
September 20 Michael Turvey
Psychology, University of Connecticut
“Human Odometry: Experiments and Theoretical Implications”
Abstract
October 25 Dan Ferris
Bioengineering, University of Michican
“Robotic Exoskeletons and Mobile Brain Imagings for Human Locomotion”
Abstract
Novermber 8 Sandro Mussa-Ivaldi
Rehabilitation institute of Chicago, Northwestern University
“Learning to Move and Learning to Push”
Abstract
December 13 Rob Howe
Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science
“Why do simple robot grippers work as well as human hands?”
Abstract
January 12 Eve Marder
Biology, Brandeis University
“A Variability, Homeostasis, and Modulation in a Rhythmic Motor Network”
Abstract
February 2 CJ Heckman
Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago
“Reverse engineering motor output to identify the detailed structure of motor commands”
Abstract
February 23 Cara Stepp
Biomedical Engineering, Boston University
“Voluntary Control of Anterior Neck Musculature in Individuals with Dysphagia”
Abstract
March 15 Heidi Schambra
Neurology, Columbia University
“Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) – A Primer: What it Does, How it Works”
Abstract
March 29 Mark Shelhamer
Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University
“Prediction and Adaptation in Saccades, and the Role of Fractal Correlations”
Abstract
April 12 Daniel Corcos
Neuroscience, University of Illinois at Chicago
“A Comparison of the Effects of Progressive Resistance Exercise and Flexibility and Balance Exercise on Parkinson’s Disease”
Abstract
June 7 Devin Jindrich
Kinesiology, California State University
“The LIMB Lab: Comparative Biomechanics and Motor Control, with Applications to Ergonomics and Rehabilitation”
Abstract
August 2 Andrea d’Avella
Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology, University of Rome
“Muscle Synergies for Motor Control”
Abstract
September 8 Tamar Flash
Applied Mathematics and Computer Science, Weizmann Institute, Israel
“Motion Planning, perception and compositionality: Time arising from a mixture of geometries”
Abstract
September 15 Matthew Tresch
Biomedical Engineering, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University
“Actions and activations of hindlimb muscles in the rat”
Abstract
October 6 Edwin Robertson
Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard University
“Interference between Different Memory Systems”
Abstract
October 20 Ed Large
Center of Complex Systems and Brain Sciences and Psychology, Florida Atlantic University
“Resonating to Rhythm”
Abstract
November 10 Andrew Biewener
Biology, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
“Assessing in vivo neuromuscular function: implications for control of muscle function across locomotor behaviors”
Abstract
December 1 Amy Bastian
Neurology, Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins University
“Understanding and Optimizing Human Motor Learning”
Abstract
December 8 Dinesh Pai
Computer Science, University of British Columbia, Canada
“Computational Models of Sensorimotor Biomechanisms”
Abstract
January 13 Natalia Dounskaia
Life Sciences, Arizona State University)
“Directional preferences of arm movements: A window to factors influencing formation of multi-joint movements”
Abstract
February 3 Jack Dennerlein
School of Public Health, Harvard University
“Motor Control in Ergonomics: Applications in Human Computer Interfaces”
Abstract
February 17 Paul Dizio
Psychology and Neuroscience, Brandeis University
“Coordination of Reaching Movements with Whole-body Motion”
Abstract
March 10 Andrew Spence
Royal Veterinary College, University of London, England
“Insects on rubber and dogs on springs: Sensing and perturbing moving animals to understand the neuromechanical basis of locomotion”
Abstract
March 17 Richard Marsh
Biology, Northeastern University
“Preflexes or Reflexes? Mechanisms for maintaining stability on uneven terrain during rapid running”
Abstract
April 14 Francisco Valero-Cuevas
Biomedical Engineering, University of Southern California
“Computational models as a means to test hypotheses about neuromuscular systems: How far have we come?”
Abstract
May 19 John Krakauer
Neurology, Johns Hopkins University
“Motor learning: Is it one thing or many different things?”
Abstract
June 2 Rebecca Spencer
Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
“The role of sleep in consolidation of motor learning in young and older adults”
Abstract
June 30 Avijit Bakshi
Physics and Neuroscience, Brandeis University
“Analysis of Human Balance in Various Force Environments”
Abstract
September 16 Dagmar Sternad
Biology, ECE, & Physics, Northeastern University
“Variability and stability in interactive tasks: from motor learning to neuro-recovery”
Abstract
September 30 Tom Roberts
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Brown University
“Fast, cheap and out of control: dynamic interactions of elastic structures and muscle motors”
Abstract
October 14 Marco Santello
Bioengineering, Arizona State University
“Learning and Transfer of Dexterous Manipulation”
Abstract
November 4 Richard Ivry
Cognitive and Brain Sciences, University of California at Berkeley
“Competitive and Inhibitory Processes during Action Selection”
Abstract
December 9 Vincent Cheung
Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT
“The Top-down and Bottom-up Approaches to Studying Motor Learning”
Abstract
January 21 Cara Lewis
Physical Therapy, Boston University
“Altering Hip Mechanics during Ambulation”
Abstract
February 11 John Jeka
Kinesiology, University of Maryland
“Control of Multiple Degrees of Freedom during Human Upright Stance”
Abstract
March 18 Simon Giszter
Neurobiology and Anatomy, Drexel University
“Rehabilitation of Spinal Cord Injury: Roles of Voluntary and Reflex Trunk Control and Modularity in Spinalized Rats”
Abstract
March 31 Jim Collins
Biomedical Engineering, Boston University
“Turn Up the Noise: Noise-Enhanced Human Sensorimotor Function”
Abstract
April 29 Madhu Venkadesan
Engineering & Applied Sciences and Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
“Collisions of Fingers and Feet”
Abstract
May 13 William Warren
Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences, Brown University
“Behavioral Dynamics of Trajectory Formation in Human Locomotion”
Abstract
June 3 Robert Ajemian
Brain and Cognitive Science, MIT
“Re-examining the debate about the functional role of motor cortex”
Abstract
June 22 Paul Gribble & Jeremy Wong
University of Western Ontario
“Sensory Changes Accompanying Motor Learning”
Abstract
September 3 Ken Holt
Physical Therapy, Boston University
“Learning the Dynamics of Human Walking”
Abstract
September 24 Joe Perkell
Research Laboratory of Electronics, MIT
“Movement goals and feedback and feedforward control mechanisms in speech production”
Abstract
October 15 Jean-Jacques Slotine
Mechanical Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT
“What Robotics may yet Learn from the Brain”
Abstract
November 5 Simon Giszter
Neurobiology and Anatomy, Drexel University
“The neural basis of motor primitives”
Abstract
December 3 Daniel Bullock
Cognitive and Neural Systems, Boston University
“Modeling basal ganglia contributions in reward prediction, action selection, and performance”
Abstract
January 22 Elliot Saltzman
Physical Therapy, Boston University
“Inter-unit Timing in Speech Production: Pattern, Stability, and Hierarchy”
Abstract
February 12 Joseph Ayers
Biology, Northeastern University
“Controlling Biomimetic Underwater Robots with Electronic Nervous Systems”
Abstract
March 5 Igo Krebs
Mechanical Engineering, MIT
“Neurorehabilitation and Robotics: What Have We Learned So Far”
Abstract
March 26 Emilio Bizzi
Brain and Cognitive Science, MIT
“My Take on What We Know and What We Do Not Know about the Vertebrate Motor System”
April 16 Paul Dizio
Psychology, Brandeis University
“Motor adaptations to limb and object dynamics in human arm movements”
Abstract
May 14 Maurice Smith
Engineering and Applied Science & Center for Brain Science, Harvard University
“Credit Assignment, Time-scales, and Basic Elements in Motor Learning (Understanding of the Nitty-Gritty Details of Motor Learning and its Practical Import)”
Abstract
June 4 Richard Marsh
Biology, Northeastern University
“Mechanics and Energetics of In Vivo Muscle Function”
Abstract
July 2 Round Table Discussion on:
“Falsification as Scientific Stragegy in Movement Neuroscience”
with short presentations by:
Neville Hogan, Mechanical Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Science, MIT
Eliot Saltzman, Physical Therapy, Boston University
Richard Marsh, Biology, Northeastern University
Paul DiZio, Psychology and Neuroscience, Brandeis University
Robert Ajemian, Brain and Cognitive Science, MIT
Alex Byrne, Philosophy, MIT
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