Alice Parker of USC has helped develop high-level (behavioral) synthesis, an automated computer design process that assists with the transformation of a behavioral description of hardware into a model of its logic and memory circuits, or an artificial brain. (Source: USC)

USC Professor Seeks to Build Working Artificial Brain through Reverse Engineering

If you feel that your brain isn’t working at times, don’t worry. There might be a solution soon.

A professor at the University of Southern California is building an artificial brain with a working synapse, a working cortex and all of the elements that impact how a brain works.

Alice Parker, who comes from a long line of successful scientists, teaches and researches brain development. Her father, a chemist, was on the team that first synthesized vitamin B1 at the pharmaceutical company Merck in New Jersey. In 1941, her uncle, Edward Wenk Jr., was appointed the first science advisor to the U.S. Congress.

Parker is currently helping to develop an artificial brain that can replicate the functions of neural mechanisms believed to be important for learning and memory.

“We are looking at how the brain works biologically, and we are pushing it down a level and seeing what we can emulate,” Parker says. “Can we emulate schizophrenia? Can we emulate various things that are biological?” She said the project has been “a lot of fun.”

Stem Career

Being a scientist didn’t come easy for Parker at first. As her mother said, She was “barely able to read,” she recalls, so her father described what the project was so she could do it by herself.

Parker’s interest in pursuing a STEM career began before she started elementary school in Birmingham, AL. after her parents bought her a chemistry set. At the time, her father was a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

This year IEEE President-Elect Tom Coughlin interviewed Parker for her IEEE History Center oral history. It’s now available on the Engineering and Technology History Wiki. This article is based on that interview. The article covers her family history and the amazing work she has pursued at USC since starting there in 1980. It is well worth your time to read the entire interview.

The Brain in Pieces

While the information in this story is not for laymen, it is a fascinating project even for the casual reader. Parker’s work focuses on four areas: biomimetic neuromorphic circuits, biomimetic stereo vision, retinal and cortical neuromorphic analog circuits, and nanotechnology.

Biomimetic neuromorphic circuits mimic the brain’s short-term memory and cognition. Biomimetic stereo vision helps systems perceive objects in three dimensions. Retinal and cortical neuromorphic analog circuits simulate neural networks found in the retina and the visual cortex.

Parker is combining those research areas through the design of a biomimetic real-time cortex (BioRC), essentially an artificial brain.

This news, along with the testing of Elon Musk’s Neuralink starting on human subjects, is yet another major advancement brought to you by AI.