Xuan Choo

PhD Student


I am an PhD (CS) student here at UWaterloo. In 2001 I graduated from UBC with a BASc in Computer Engineering. While I was there, I worked with VLSI cad design and robotics. One cool project I worked on was a remote surgical device with force feedback capabilities. I have a couple of years of working experience, where I worked as the head of the IT department for a company that deals with providing accurate and realistic real-time battlefield simulation for the military. The core of the system involved a sophisticated laser engagement system (similar in concept to laser tag), and this is coupled with a real-time location and status tracking system.

For my Master's project, I designed a spiking neuron model that modelled human serial working memory that replicated typical human recall behaviours like primacy and recency (remembering items at the start and end of a list better than the middle of the list).

Between my Master's and PhD programs, I worked on integrating various models built by other members of the lab into one gigantic model called Spaun.

My Research Interests

I have a rather wide set of research interests.

Memory (Working & Long-term)

How does the brain remember things, and what sorts of representations are used to do so. How does the brain integrate the different sensory inputs in working memory, and what is the underlying structure? How does the brain "decide" what to put into long-term memory and how does it do it?

General Cognition and Large-scale Model Design

I am interested to study and model how the brain performs tasks like concept generalization and problem solving. I am also interested in the problem of integration - to build a system that seamlessly melds sensory input, with decision making and problem solving, with motor output, in order to perform highly complex tasks.

Language Learning, Representation, and Processing

Languages come in many forms:

  • Written languages: which can be further broken down into logographic (pictorial languages, like Chinese, Japanese), and syllabic (languages like English, French, etc).
  • Spoken languages
  • Sign languages

And yet the brain is able to make sense of it all. Is there an underlying general framework that the brain uses to represent these different forms of languages, or does each form have its own specific framework? Additionally, how does the brain learn languages? Are multiple sensory inputs required to learn a language, or is just one sensory input enough?

Previous Projects

A biologically plausible model of memory for serial-order information Spaun: A large-scale model of the functioning brain

Current Project

General instruction following in a large-scale biologically plausible brain model

Recommended Readings

In search of memory: The emergence of a new science of mind - Eric Kendel

How to build a brain: A neural architecture for biological cognition - Chris Eliasmith