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Contact: parker "at"
The BioRC Project at the University of Southern California, led by Prof. Alice Parker in the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering, researches the fundamental National Academy of Engineering's Grand Challenge, Reverse Engineering the Brain. The questions  if, when and how an artificial brain could be constructed are being raised, and research into the fundamental challenges involved in whole brain emulation is continuing. These challenges include
  • emulating the complexity of the individual neuronal computations,
  • constructing systems on the scale of the human brain with billions of neurons and trillions of synapses,
  • connecting the neurons for effective and efficient communication, and
  • implementing plasticity, the ability of the brain to change and grow as learning occurs.
  • An ancillary challenge is producing a low-power design.

The basic approach of the BioRC project is to employ analog computations (an approach pioneered by Carver Mead at Cal Tech) to emulate neural structures. This approach is supported by the use of nanotechnology, with structures a few nanometers in dimension, with the capability of controlled assembly and use, envisioned a half-century ago by physicist Richard Feynman. The approach relies on implementing the functions of neural mechanisms believed to be important for learning and memory, while approximating the detailed implementations of the mechanisms.

The BioRC group is the first group to demonstrate in a CMOS circuit the effect of Astrocytes (Glial Cells) on synaptic transmission, one of first three groups to use fabricated carbon nanoutube transistors to demonstrate analog neuromorphic circuits (in collaboration with Chongwu Zhou's Nanolab), the first group to simulate neuomorphic circuits using carbon nanotube models (in collaboration with Chongwu Zhou's Nanolab), and the first group to implement dendritic plasticity in neuromorphic circuits

  Concept animation of a 3-D carbon nanotube synapse: Credit Khushnood Irani

Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering-Systems
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2562 USA