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Dagmar Sternad

University Distinguished Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Jointly Appointed, Biology
Affiliated Faculty, Bioengineering
503 Richards Hall
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115


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.

Research & Scholarship Interests

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

Department Research Areas

College Research Initiatives

Honors & Awards

  • Klein Lectureship Award
  • Distinguished Lecturer on Life and the Sciences of Complexity, Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action

Selected Publications

  • S.W. Park, H. Marino, S. Charles, D. Sternad, N. Hogan, Moving Slowly is Hard for Humans: Limitations of Dynamic Primitives, Journal of Neurophysiology, 118(1), 2017, 69-83
  • P. Stein, E.L. Saltzman, K.G. Holt, D. Sternad, Is Failed Predictive Control a Risk Factor for Focal Dystonia?, Motor Disorders, 31(12), 2016, 1772-1777
  • C.J. Hasson, Z. Zhang, M.O. Abe, D. Sternad, Neuromotor Noise is Malleable by Amplification of Perceived Error, PLoS Computational Biology, 2016
  • M.E. Huber, N. Kuznetsov, D. Sternad, Persistence of Reduced Neuromotor Noise in Long-term Motor Skill Learning, Journal of Neurophysiology, 116(6), 2016, 2922-2935
See Google Scholar Profile for all publications »

Related News

April 2, 2019

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.

January 30, 2019

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.

October 9, 2018

COS/ECE Professor Dagmar Sternad was featured in Physics Today 's article " Humans control complex objects by exploiting their stability ."...

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