Perception-Action Lab

Students working in a research laboratory

About the Lab

The general research of the Perception-Action Laboratory concerns how we adapt corrective balance reactions to meet environmental challenges under extreme time pressure.

In the Perception-Action lab we study how we adapt corrective balance reactions to meet environmental challenges under extreme time pressure. Although a complex nervous system allows for the production of goal-oriented movements, time delays associated with traversing an expansive neural network are at odds with the demand for rapid action. In balance recovery, many of the mechanisms for generating corrective postural adjustments are embedded within basic levels of the neural hierarchy (e.g. spinal cord and brainstem) thereby minimizing processing delays. However, when recovery actions need to adapt to complicated environments these automatic responses are insufficient. Here the brain must play a role. In our research we use techniques that directly assess brain function, such as magnetic brain stimulation and electroencephalography, to address the role of the brain in reactive balance. The aim is to determine how the brain overcomes conflicting demands to produce movement in a fast yet context-specific manner to avoid a fall in complex environments.


The Perception-Action lab was founded by Dr. Dave Bolton in September of 2016. The initial lab space was in room 119b of the HPER building. Since that time, the lab has now expanded and shares space in the Center for Clinical Excellence with several otherresearchers in the department.

Research Opportunities

Every year there are new studies taking place in the Perception-Action Lab. Some of these studies are faculty-led, while others are master’s degree projects.

Current Projects

Motor preparation for rapid reactions in complex environments

This study investigates how our brain can help us prepare balance recovery movements prior to a fall by simple observation of our surroundings.

Musculoskeletal Injury Diminishes Inhibitory Control and Thereby Increases Risk of Secondary Injury

This study uses Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to measure how the nervous system adapts following damage to the knee joint.

Establishing a neural marker for inhibitory control during balance recovery

The purpose of this research is to investigate how the brain is equipped to produce rapid, goal-directed movements in cluttered environments.Here, we use Electroencephalography (EEG) to measure specific brain signals that predict how well we can stop an automatic, but unwanted balance recovery step.

The role of neuromodulation in reactive balance control

This project willdescribe the role of the norepinephrine (NE) system in facilitating reactive balance.This is an important neuromodulator for attention and may play a key role in boostingcognitive function to aid with fall prevention.

Labs and Facilities


HPER Building

Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER)

SCCE Building

Sorenson Center for Clinical Excellence (SCCE)

We have two laboratories dedicated to our research. One is located in the Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER) Building and the other is a shared laboratory space located in the newly constructed Sorenson Legacy Foundation Center for Clinical Excellence (SCCE) building. Combined, these two laboratories are equipped with Magstim Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation units, a Cambridge Electronic Design data acquisition system, Delsys electromyography systems, an ANTNeuro electroencephalography system, liquid crystal occlusion spectacles from Translucent Technologies Inc., and force plates (Kistler and Bertec). Software programs used include Signal, Matlab, Labview, and ASA. Additionally, these laboratories are equipped with Lean and Release systems to impose temporally unpredictable forward perturbations.

Lab Equipment

lab equipment
Perception-Action lab equipment

Lab Facility


If you are interested in getting involved, contact Dr. Bolton. Please note that availablity within the lab is determined by the needs of the current projects. Visit the Research Opportunitites page for this lab to learn more.

David Bolton

David Bolton

Assistant Professor

Kinesiology and Health Science

Phone: 435-797-7329
Office Location: SCCE 483