The CAREER grants are the NSF’s most prestigious award in support of the early career-development activities of junior faculty who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization.
Prof. Mesgarani’s CAREER project will explore a new research direction for his group: computational modeling of neural networks. The recent parallel breakthroughs in deep neural network models and neuroimaging techniques have significantly advanced the current state of artificial and biological computing. However, there has been little interaction between these two disciplines, resulting in simplistic models of neural systems with limited prediction, learning, and generalization abilities. Mesgarani’s goal is to create a coherent theoretical and mathematical framework to understand the computational role of distinctive features of biological neural networks, their contribution to the formation of robust signal representations, and to model and integrate them into the current artificial neural networks. These new bio-inspired models and algorithms will have adaptive and cognitive abilities, will better predict experimental observations, and will advance the knowledge of how the brain processes speech. In addition, the performance of these models should approach human abilities in tasks mimicking cognitive functions, and will motivate new experiments that can further impose realistic constraints on the models.