Unlocking the Mysteries of the Brain

Applying theoretic concepts to the problems that plague humanity, ELSC’s interdisciplinary teams are probing the mysteries of the brain through a wide range of research studies. Guided by computational neuroscience, each subject is examined by a number of teams that investigate them from different perspectives. Among the principal areas being investigated are:

  • Movement Planning and Control: Research into basic questions such as how the motor system translates visual information, how motor neurons learn new patterns of movement – and how and where learned movements are stored in motor memory – is assisting ELSC scientists in the development of Brain Machine Interfaces (BMIs). This technology establishes a direct communication pathway between the brain and an external device, re-routing movement-related signals that bypass damaged parts of the nervous system.

Technological and scientific advances have made it possible to construct robotic limbs that are controlled by commands from the brain’s motor cortex, giving people with paralyzed or amputated limbs hope for the restoration of their quality of life. Acquiring greater insight into how the motor cortex works will help ELSC scientists create an increasingly seamless bond between the artificial limbs and the human brain.

  • Sensation and Perception: Studies in these fields focus on how the brain generates a representation of the world around us, combining incoming perceptual information with memory that enables us to act and respond.

One team of ELSC researchers is scrutinizing the brains of visually-impaired people, demonstrating how brain areas that are normally used for sight are rewired to enable better memory in the blind. This type of brain reorganization – where brain areas acquire new functions – has important implications for the possibility of neuronal regeneration after brain damage.

One recent computational model helps explain how networks of auditory neurons can efficiently decode human speech under conditions of varying speed. This research may lead to improvements in speech-recognition technology, as well as create innovative treatments for a variety of hearing-related problems.

Additional research has shown that people can learn to recognize shapes by means of especially designed “soundscapes,” activating shape recognition areas in the brain that are usually only activated when a shape is perceived visually. This research shows that it is essentially possible to “see” even without sight.

  • Consciousness and Cognition: Researchers at ELSC use advanced EEG and MRI brain mapping tools to understand what happens in the brain when we become aware of something. These methods allow our researchers to see the activity in the human brain while subjects are performing conscious actions -while they are awake and behaving.

Among current research projects are studies that focus on the disruption of information processing – dyslexia is a prime and widespread example of this disorder. ELSC research results are already being used to develop new treatments for dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

Awareness is also being investigated by studying stroke patients with right-hemisphere damage. They may suffer from unilateral neglect – an inability to attend and respond to events and objects located on their left side. Other studies examine the remarkable ability of our brain to learn and classify new information, explaining how it is able to identify and categorize information from simple comparisons, how new categories may be identified and how we achieve expertise in identifying faces, names, letters and other objects.

  • Neurological Disorders: The rapid growth of neuroscience research has produced amazing progress in the knowledge and treatment of diseases as diverse as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, depression and Alzheimer’s. ELSC is not simply seeking a magic solution to one specific brain disease. Rather, the ELSC research model provides the foundation for the construction of novel and practical applications to treat or prevent a wide spectrum of debilitating diseases and devastating brain disorders.
Some of our faculty members:

imageProfessor Hagai Bergman:

Basal Ganglia Research Laboratory.

The critical role played by the basal ganglia in the pathogenesis of various movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases has been known for many years. Studies have indicated that the neural networks of the basal ganglia participate in everyday complex behaviors that require coordination between cognition, motivation and movements. 

unknownProfessor Idan Segev:

The Lab for Understanding Neurons

The laboratory develops Information processing and computation in cortical neuron. It also works in synaptic learning and plasticity rules in dendritic trees.

adi_mizrahiProfessor Adi Misrahi:

Laboratory of neuronal and circuit plasticity

This lab is interested in how the brain computes sensory information and how these computations change with the experience of the animal. We study both the structure and the function of neurons mainly in two sensory modalities – olfaction and audition. Our animal model is the mouse.

Haim Sompolinski:

The Neurophysics Laboratory

Prof. Sompolinsky has developed new theoretical approaches to computational neuroscience based on the principles and methods of statistical physics, and physics of dynamical and stochastic systems. His research areas cover theoretical and computational investigations of cortical dynamics, sensory processing, motor control, neuronal population coding, long and short-term memory, and neural learning.

Hermona Soreq:

Human stress reactions enable immediate survival yet entail long-term damage spanning neuromuscular, neurodegenerative, and inflammatory diseases. Dr. Soreq pioneers diverse Molecular Biomedicine approaches for exploring the mechanisms underlying stress-associated diseases and develops innovative strategies for alleviating the consequences of traumatic experiences or chemical and inflammatory stresses.