Jacobs School News Item
UC San Diego Electrical Engineer Awarded Young Investigator Award from U.S. Office of Naval Research
Electrical & Computer Engineering professor at UC San Diego
San Diego, CA, March 23, 2016 -- The U.S. Office of Naval Research has awarded a Young Investigator Award to electrical engineering professor Duygu Kuzum of the University of California, San Diego, for her work to construct a computational model of signal processing in the hippocampus. The research is expected to provide a greater understanding of the mechanisms and microcircuits implicated in how the human brain processes information, which – when applied to computing – could lead to systems with more scalable, efficient and brain-like cognitive skills.
“The brain is an amazing computational system,” said Kuzum, an assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. “I believe that understanding it better can open up new opportunities for information processing, developing brain computer interfaces or neural prosthetic devices.”
The hippocampus, noted Kuzum, is a part of the brain that plays important roles in learning and memory. Previous research suggests that signal oscillations of different frequencies, durations and amplitudes coordinate how information is processed and transferred across areas of the brain.
“In this project,” she continued, “we will first try to determine which circuit mechanisms are implicated. Then, based on experimental findings, we will develop a microcircuit model of those changes in the hippocampus to further investigate information transfer using computer simulations.”
To determine which mechanisms in the hippocampus might be implicated in how we learn and remember, Kuzum and her team will use tools from nanoelectronics to study interactions in the brain at micro-circuit scale, as well as a specialized optical microscope to image hundreds of neurons with cellular resolution. EEG, ECoG and other electrical recording techniques derived from electrophysiology – a branch of science concerned with the flow of ions (ion current) in biological tissues – will enable the team to measure what’s happening in the brain.
Kuzum was one of 47 researchers to win the award from the ONR, which invests in research with applications in naval science and technology (researchers from UC San Diego received three such awards – the most of any other university represented). Kuzum will be awarded a total of $510,000 over three years for her work, dubbed “From Neurons to Microcircuits of Hippocampus: A Computational Model Based on Experimental Findings.”
Story written by Tiffany Fox, Qualcomm Instittue at UC San Diego.