How human beings (and human brains)—individually and together—coordinate their behavior on multiple levels, from cells to cognition to (most recently) social settings (see http://www.ccs.fau.edu/hbbl3/). His approach is grounded in the concepts, methods and tools of self-organization in physical and chemical systems tailored to the activities of animate, living things (moving, perceiving, feeling, thinking, learning, remembering, etc.), a theoretical and empirical framework that has come to be called Coordination Dynamics.
Kelso’s work combines experimental research (using detailed kinematic measures of behavior and neuroimaging tools such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion tensor imaging, large scale electrode and SQuID arrays) and theoretical/computational modeling. His research spans multiple scales of observation and is relevant to a broad range of cognitive and behavioral functions, including motor control, motor development, speech production, learning, perception, social coordination and human-machine interaction. Kelso’s approach looks for commonalities and differences in the way such complex systems are coordinated across scales with the goal of identifying common principles and mechanisms. Kelso’s most recent work is aimed at advancing our understanding of social function at both neural and behavioral levels. His goal is to identify neuromarkers and their spatiotemporal choreography during simple forms of dyadic interaction that may be useful in the diagnosis and treatment of social dysfunction in neuropsychiatric disorders. Kelso’s research has been continuously funded for over 40 years by both US federal agencies (NIH,NSF,ONR) and international organizations such as the Human Frontier Science Program, as well as by private sources.
Kelso and colleagues’ research (over 400 articles) has been published in Science and Nature as well as other prominent journals in the fields of neuroscience, physics, biology and psychology. His books include Dynamic Patterns: the Self-Organization of Brain and Behavior (MIT Press, 1995), Coordination Dynamics (with VK Jirsa), Springer, 2004) and The Complementary Nature (with DA Engstrom) published by MIT Press in 2006.
Kelso is an elected Fellow of APA, APS, SEP and AAAS and has received a number of honors and awards for his work, including the MERIT, Senior Scientist and Director’s Innovations Awards from the U.S. National Institute of Health, the Distinguished Alumni Research Achievement Award from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the Docteur Honoris Causa degree from the Republic of France and the University of Toulouse (est. 1228). In 2007 he was named Pierre de Fermat Laureate and in 2011 he was the recipient of the Bernstein Prize for his fundamental work on how the brain controls movement. In 2016, Kelso was elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy (Hon. MRIA) an honor given to only 38 scientists around the world.
Trained in a specifically interdisciplinary setting, Kelso’s PhD students and Postdoctoral fellows have gone on to careers in some of the top academic and research institutions in the world, a fact that he is especially proud of.