Joseph Ayers

Joseph AyersProfessor
Neurophysiology and Behavior Biomimetics

Marine Science Center
Northeastern University
430 Nahant Road
Nahant, MA 01908 USA
781.581.7370, x309

Lab Website:

Academic Education

  • Ph.D., University of California, Santa Cruz
  • B.S., University of California, Riverside


  • Visiting Scholar, Institute for Nonlinear Science, UC San Diego (2003)
  • Director, Marine Science Center, Northeastern University (1991-2001)
  • Alfred Sloan Foundation Fellow, Northeastern University (1980-1982)
  • Postdoctoral, CNRS, Institut de Neurophysiologie et Psychophysiology Marseille, France (1975-1976)
  • Postdoctoral, Neuroscience Program, University of California, San Diego (1976-1978)

Other Professional Activities

Research Interests

We build biomimetic robots based on simple neurobiological models, the lobster and sea lamprey. The robots feature a physical plant that captures the biomechanical advantages of the body form, a neuronal circuit-based controller, neuromorphic sensors, myomorphic actuators and a behavioral set based on action patterns, reverse engineered from movies of the animal models. Our controllers are based on neuronal circuits established from neurophysiology. To achieve real-time operation, we base our electronic neurons on nonlinear dynamical models of neuronal behavior rather than physiological models. We employ both UCSD electronic neurons and synapses (analog computers that solve the Hindmarsh-Rose equations) and discrete time map based neurons and synapses that are integrated on a DSP. Together these components provide an integrated architecture for the control of innate behavioral action patterns and reactive autonomy.

Teaching Activities

I fully subscribe to the experiential aspect of undergraduate education and sponsor a variety of undergraduate directed studies and honors projects. I attempt to bring both my research activities into the classroom and make sure my students have excellent exposure to the primary research literature and a critical eye toward the interpretation of data. I teach courses that range from brain structure/function to cellular neurophysiology.