Associate Professor of Neuroscience
  Go to Currie Neuroscience Faculty profile


BA, Biology, University of California, San Diego; La Jolla, CA.
M.S., Biology, Northeastern University Marine Science Center, Nahant, MA.
Ph.D., Animal Physiology, University of California, Davis; Davis, CA.
Postdoctoral training, Washington University; St. Louis, MO.

Coordinated rhythmic movements (e.g., breathing, walking, swimming, scratching) are characterized by precise temporal sequences of muscle activation referred to as motor patterns or motor programs.  Motor pattern sequences are produced by rhythmically active networks of nerve cells called central pattern generators (CPGs) in the brain and spinal cord.  Most of my work, funded by an NSF grant, examines cellular- and circuit-level mechanisms used by spinal cord CPG networks to generate rhythmic swimming and scratching movements in the turtle hindlimb.  Both whole-animal (in situ) and isolated spinal cord (in vitro) preparations are used in these studies.  The understanding of CPG mechanisms in biological neural networks is relevant to the understanding of human movement disorders and the design of biologically based ("biomimetic") control systems in robotics.


We recorded the first fictive swimming motor patterns in turtles that were immobilized by a neuromuscular blocking agent (Juranek and Currie, 2000). "Fictive" motor patterns are recorded directly from muscle nerves, without actual movement. We elicit fictive swim activity by electrically stimulating descending fiber tracts in a specific region of the spinal cord. Brief stimulation of a scratch reflex during ongoing fictive swimming can interrupt and permanently reset the rhythm of the swim. This shows that there are strong central interactions between swim and scratch neural networks, and suggests that they may share key timing elements.  I have begun investigating pre-motor command systems in the turtle brainstem that activate locomotor CPGs in the spinal cord.


Click image below for

Urashima Taro - illustrated by Gianni Benvenuti

Neurotechnology book cover 

A number of years ago, I collaborated with Dr. Joseph Ayers and several engineers on a project to design and build biomimetic underwater robots for use in mine detection. The ultimate goal of this work, funded by DARPA-CBS, is to use finite-state-machine controllers, organized into command, coordinating and CPG systems, to control (1) an 8-legged ambulatory robot based on the lobster, and (2) an undulatory swimming robot based on the lamprey (an eel-like lower vertebrate). My part in this project was to assist in the "reverse engineering" of lamprey swimming, turning, and orientation behaviors from the animal to the robot.  Shape-memory-alloy (nitinol, or Flexinol™) wires, which shorten by about 5% in response to a train of current pulses, are used as "artificial muscle" to produce robotic movement.  This work is described in the new book "Neurotechnology for Biomimetic Robots", published by MIT Press.




Click on image to see movie (
Soft rubber lamprey model, fabricated for the Biomimetic Underwater Robot Program.

The model swam via passively conducted undulatory waves while suspended beneath a frictionless air track.  

Undulatory oscillations were generated by a DC motor via a thin rod, inserted into the model just behind the "head"
and driven by a sine wave from a function generator.  By manually adjusting the sine wave's DC offset,

the model could be made to turn right or left.

Publications: See faculty webpage









UCR Links
UC Riverside Home Page
UC Riverside Neuroscience Graduate Program
UC Riverside Neuroscience Graduate Program Faculty
Scott Currie's Neuroscience Faculty Page


People Links
Joseph Ayers
Ari Berkowitz
Paul S.G. Stein

Theodore H. Bullock

Professional Organizations
American Physiological Society (APS)
International Brain Research Organization (IBRO)
International Society for Neuroethology
Society for the Neural Control of Movement
Society for Neuroscience


Science Education


Khan Academy


Donald Wilson (1932-1970)

Alan Turing: the Enigma

Tony Sale's Virtual Bletchley Park

Thomas Henry Huxley

Darwin on-line (University of Cambridge)



Scripta elegans

William Butler Yeats - The Wind Among the Reeds

William Butler Yeats - Song of the Wandering Aengus

Robert Burns - To a Mouse

Lewis Carroll - A-sitting on a gate

The Oxford Shakespeare - poetry
Federico García Lorca

Stevie Smith - BBC Outloud

BBC Outloud - Poets performing their own works

Poetry Out Loud

Allen Ginsberg - Howl

Gregory Corso - My hands are a city

Gregory Corso - Last night I drove a car

John Berryman - Dream Song 14

Bert Taylor - The Dinosaur

Emily Dickinson - The Brain

The Song of Quoodle - G.K. Chesterton

Rainer Maria Rilke - The Second Duino Elegy

The Song of Songs
Wislawsa Szymborska - Monologue of a Dog


Neuroscientist Poets

Sir Charles Sherrington - The Assaying of Brabantius (1925)

Warren S. McCulloch - The Natural Fit (1959)

Jerome Lettvin - The Fat Abbott (1962, poetry review)


Flotsam and Jetsam

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference

NASA/JPL Mars Exploration
The Clock of the Long Now
The Frog and Peach

Beyond the Fringe - The Great Train Robbery

Philip K. Dick official website

Mussehl & Westphal Musical Saws

Calcium made interesting (Graham Chapman)