Science in Israel: Hebrew U. teams produce groundbreaking research

The profound mysteries of the mind and brain have captured the attention and imagination of the finest thinkers and researchers worldwide. These mysteries equally fascinate medical professionals striving to treat neurodegenerative illnesses such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Particularly as populations age, there is a pressing need for research that expands knowledge of the brain and tackles neurological conditions and disorders. Myriad unanswered questions surround the field of brain science. What happens when people experience brain lesions? How does the brain restore skills after injury? Why and how do we remember music we’ve heard?  

Rendering of Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at Hebrew University

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is home to prominent, award-winning neuroscientists. Its renowned Ph.D. degree program in interdisciplinary neuroscience is producing new generations of “renaissance thinkers” equipped to initiate basic research and translate their findings into clinical applications. Twice recognized by the European Union as a “Center of Excellence,” Hebrew University has an impressive record of success in brain science research and new drug development.

In 2007, an international academic review committee, including two Nobel laureates, visited the Hebrew University. These experts from Columbia University, Rockefeller University, MIT and the Max Planck Institute concurred that Hebrew University’s neuroscience community, pending the recruitment of additional new faculty and a state-of-the-art research building, has the potential to become one of the world’s top five brain-research centers. The Report of the Neuroscience Review Committee, followed by a generous challenge grant from the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, has led to a major fundraising campaign in support of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC)  on the Edmond J. Safra Campus at Givat Ram.    

ELSC builds upon the research and academic foundation created by ELSC’s predecessor, the Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation at Hebrew University. Among the many exciting discoveries and innovations produced by interdisciplinary research teams: the development of brain-machine interfaces that enable paralyzed patients to activate a robotic limb directly from their brains; devices that help visually impaired individuals through the means of artificial vision and sensory substitution; ; and the utilization of novel optical probes for detecting micro-changes in the living brain that are associated with the ability to learn and remember.  

ELSC scientists have translated basic research of the basal ganglia into a medical technique known as advanced Deep Brain Stimulation; the technique, which relies on electrodes strategically implanted in the brain, is used widely to treat Parkinson’s patients, alleviating debilitating symptoms. Teams working across disciplines have developed powerful theoretical modeling approaches for understanding how the nervous system processes sensory information and prompts movement.  

This groundbreaking work focuses on five main research areas: molecular neuroscience, neuronal circuits, systems neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, and computational neuroscience. All seek to uncover the mechanisms by which the brain activates behavior and cognition.

To guarantee Israel’s position in the vanguard of global neuroscience, plans are under way to construct the Jerusalem Brain Sciences on the Safra Campus. This state-of the-art building  will provide maximum laboratory flexibility so  researchers can collaborate and innovate. With 28 laboratories housed in two wings, it will promote interaction between varied disciplines: neurobiology, physiology, biochemistry, psychology, physics, and computer science and engineering. Designed by acclaimed architect Lord Norman Foster, the building will also provide a dynamic forum for international scientific collaboration and conferences. To take a virtual tour of the building, visit

Hebrew University offers the world brain research of the highest caliber. The work of these visionary scientists is saving and improving lives while expanding our understanding of the human brain and its crucial functions.