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Mrs. Lily Safra Dedicates the New Home of Hebrew University's Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC)

02/07/2017

Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat, British Architect Lord Norman Foster, and more than 400 friends and supporters joined the gala celebration and naming ceremony of Israel’s largest neuroscience center

Video: ‘ELSC — The Next Generation of Brain Research’

More than 400 friends and supporters joined Mrs. Lily Safra as she dedicated the new home of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Edmond J. Safra Campus.

The Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, and Lord Norman Foster, Founder and Executive Chairman of the British architectural firm Foster + Partners, which designed the new Center, were among the dignitaries attending the gala event.

“I am thrilled to join in celebrating this defining moment for ELSC when such an extraordinary new building becomes home to a remarkable community of researchers and students,” said Mrs. Lily Safra. “Their multi-disciplinary study of the brain's secrets will surely make a profound impact on how we treat disease and care for patients. I know that my husband Edmond would share my deep sense of pride that our names are associated with such pioneering work, and with such dedicated and inspiring people."

Mrs. Safra is a leading supporter of neuroscience research projects around the world, and Chairwoman of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, which pledged a lead donation of $50 Million of the Center’s $150 Million initial budget.

“The Hebrew University is grateful to Mrs. Lily Safra and the Edmond J. Safra Foundation for their leadership in this historic initiative to unlock the mysteries of the brain,” said Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, President of the Hebrew University.  “ELSC is unique in the way it brings together theoretical and experimental researchers to develop pioneering approaches to brain science.”

The 14,500 square-meter Center is a premier setting that will encourage effective collaboration through interdisciplinary collaboration and interaction. Specialists in disciplines such as physics, computer science, psychology, neurobiology and medicine will all work under one roof to achieve breakthroughs that improve the lives of patients suffering from illnesses of the brain.

Directed by Prof. Israel Nelken and Prof. Adi Mizrahi, the Center will include state-of-the-art labs, classrooms, an innovative imaging center, and areas for biological and pre-clinical research. Significant emphasis was placed on constructing an environmentally friendly building with a focus on conserving energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.  

Video: “ELSC — The Next Generation of Brain Research” can be viewed at https://youtu.be/JRibYsXS0lw

Photos for Download:
  • http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170613_elsc-3.jpg - Mrs. Lily Safra cuts the ribbon to dedicate the new home of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Science, accompanied by (from left) British architect Lord Norman Foster, Chairman of the Hebrew University's Board of Governors Mr. Michael Federmann, Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat, and Hebrew University President Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson. (Credit: Michael Zekri for Hebrew University) 
  • http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170613_elsc-5.jpg - Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat speaks at the dedication of the new home of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Science (Credit: Bruno Charbit for Hebrew University) 
  • http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170613_elsc-6.JPG - (From left) ELSC scientist Prof. Idan Segev, Member of the Council for Higher Education and Chairman of the Planning and Budgeting Committee Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats, Hebrew University Rector and President-elect Prof. Asher Cohen, and ELSC researcher Prof. Eilon Vaadia. (Credit: Bruno Charbit for Hebrew University)
  • http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170613_elsc-9.jpg - Interior photo of the new brain sciences building at the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (Credit: Michael Zekri for Hebrew University) 
  • http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170613_elsc-12.jpg - Exterior photo of the new brain sciences building at the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (Credit: Michael Zekri for Hebrew University)
  • http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170316_elsc-11.jpg - The facade of the new home of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Science, depicting neuronal connections in the brain. (Credit: Foster + Partners / Hebrew University)

About the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences

ELSC’s mission is to achieve a comprehensive understanding of brain mechanisms by developing a thriving interface between theoretical and experimental neuroscience. Harnessing the extraordinary opportunities created by advances in technology and medicine, ELSC is shaping the next generation of researchers to advance the brain sciences and transform the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders. By building bridges across disciplines—combining high-resolution studies of local neuronal circuits (from genes to neurons and synapses) with a global theory of the brain’s computational principles—ELSC aims to be at the forefront of neuroscience research worldwide. ELSC was founded with the generous support of the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, which supports hundreds of organizations in more than 40 countries around the world. For more information, please visit http://elsc.huji.ac.il.

About the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel’s leading academic and research institution, is ranked among the top 100 universities in the world. Founded in 1918 by visionaries including Albert Einstein, the Hebrew University is a pluralistic institution where science and knowledge are advanced for the benefit of humankind. For more information, please visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en

Mrs. Lily Safra Dedicates the New Home of Hebrew University's Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC)
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Hebrew University to Dedicate New Home of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC)

07/06/2017

Philanthropist Mrs. Lily Safra, Architect Lord Norman Foster, and more than 400 people from Israel and abroad to attend the gala celebration and naming ceremony of Israel’s largest neuroscience center

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem will dedicate the new home of The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) in Jerusalem on June 13, 2017. More than 400 people from Israel and abroad will attend the gala celebration and naming ceremony of the largest neuroscience center in Israel and one of the most ambitious in the world.

Participating in the event will be Mrs. Lily Safra, a leading supporter of neuroscience research projects around the world, and Chairwoman of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, which pledged a lead donation of $50 Million of the Center’s $150 Million initial budget.

“I am truly thrilled to join in celebrating this defining moment for ELSC when such an extraordinary new building becomes home to a remarkable community of researchers and students,” said Mrs. Lily Safra. “Their multi-disciplinary study of the brain's secrets will surely make a profound impact on how we treat disease and care for patients. I know that my husband Edmond would share my deep sense of pride that our names are associated with such pioneering work, and with such dedicated and inspiring people."

The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences is at the forefront of the revolution in neuroscience research. Harnessing the extraordinary opportunities created by advances in technology and medicine, ELSC is shaping the next generation of researchers to advance the brain sciences and transform the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders.

“ELSC is unique in the way it brings together theoretical and experimental researchers to develop pioneering approaches to brain science,” said Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, President of the Hebrew University.  “The Hebrew University is grateful to Mrs. Lily Safra and the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation for their leadership in this historic initiative to unlock the mysteries of the brain.”

Lord Norman Foster, the award-winning Founder and Executive Chairman of the British architectural firm Foster + Partners, which designed the new Center, will participate in the gala event.

“The project for the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences is much like a city in microcosm, with some of the same challenges: how do we best create a sense of community, share knowledge, bring people together, and support collective endeavours towards common goals? The building works flexibly, accommodating a diverse range of requirements from customisable, individual workstations to a central courtyard that is the social heart, breaking the traditional mould of learning and making the process more collaborative. It is a celebration of the brain, and of the vital work that is carried out by the researchers here,” said Lord Foster.

The 14,500 square-meter Center will include state-of-the-art labs, classrooms, an innovative imaging center, and areas for biological and pre-clinical research. Significant emphasis was placed on constructing an environmentally friendly building with a focus on conserving energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. 

Prof. Israel Nelken, Co-Director of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences, and the Milton z"l and Brindell Gottlieb Professor of Brain Science, said: "At the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences, scientists follow an interdisciplinary agenda to uncover the causal links between genes, neurons and circuits from which cognition and behavior emerge, paving the way to a wide spectrum of future applications, from clever gadgets that improve quality of life to better health care.”

ELSC scientists have already paved a way towards fundamental understanding of brain processes in health and disease. At the Lab for Understanding Neurons, Prof. Idan Segev, the David & Inez Myers Professor in Computational Neuroscience, uses mathematical tools to digitally reconstruct a whole piece of cortical circuits using powerful computers. Using these models his team recently discovered rich structures or connectivity previously unknown. These “hidden” circuit structures pose constraints on how sensory information is processed in the neocortex. Prof. Merav Ahissar, the Joseph H. and Belle Braun Professor of Psychology, with longstanding interest in studying dyslexia, recently found that a central problem for dyslexics is forming prediction, a fundamental aspect of brain computing that governs our behaviors.

ELSC’s young generation of researchers are also studying the brain at unprecedented resolutions. Dr. Ami Citri, for example, received  the prestigious $100,000 Adelis Brain Research Award for his outstanding work in the field of experience-dependent plasticity and its impact on diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders. Most projects are led by ELSC’s PhD students, an elite group of young scholars. 

About the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences

ELSC’s mission is to achieve a comprehensive understanding of brain mechanisms by developing a thriving interface between theoretical and experimental neuroscience. By building bridges across disciplines—combining high-resolution studies of local neuronal circuits (from genes to neurons and synapses) with a global theory of the brain’s computational principles—ELSC aims to be at the forefront of neuroscience research worldwide. ELSC was founded with the generous support of the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, which supports hundreds of organizations in more than 40 countries around the world. For more information, please visit http://elsc.huji.ac.il.

About the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel’s leading academic and research institution, is ranked among the top 100 universities in the world. Founded in 1918 by visionaries including Albert Einstein, the Hebrew University is a pluralistic institution where science and knowledge are advanced for the benefit of humankind. For more information, please visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en

Hebrew University to Dedicate New Home of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC)
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Researchers find micro-gene that protects the brain from developing epilepsy

06/06/2017
Increased levels of a micro-RNA could have a protective effect that explains why identical stressors trigger seizures in some people but not in others

On December 16, 1997, hundreds of Japanese children were brought to hospital suffering from epilepsy-like seizures. They all had one thing in common: they had been watching an episode of the Pokémon TV show when their symptoms began. Doctors determined that their symptoms were triggered by five seconds of intensely bright flashing lights on the popular TV program. But why did the lights affect a few hundred children while thousands of other viewers were unharmed?

In new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers headed by Prof. Hermona Soreq at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem sought to answer this question. Drawing on her previous research, Prof. Soreq, the Charlotte Slesinger Professor of Molecular Neuroscience at the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences and the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, hypothesized that healthy brains may be protected from epileptic seizures by rapidly produced molecules called short RNAs, or microRNAs (miRs). MicroRNAs are a recently-discovered class of non-coding RNAs that can prevent genes from expressing particular proteins.

To test this idea, Soreq and her colleagues at the Hebrew University developed a transgenic mouse producing unusually high amounts of one micro-RNA called miR-211, which the researchers predicted was involved. The levels of this molecule could be gradually lowered by administering the antibiotic Doxycycline, enabling tests of its potency to avoid epilepsy.

Working with colleagues at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and Dalhousie University in Canada, they suppressed excess miR-211 production in the engineered mice to the levels found in normal brains. Within four days, this caused the mice to display electrically-recorded epilepsy and hypersensitivity to epilepsy-inducing compounds.  “Dynamic changes in the amount of miR-211 in the forebrains of these mice shifted the threshold for spontaneous and pharmacologically induced seizures, alongside changes in the cholinergic pathway genes,” said Prof. Soreq.

These findings indicated that mir-211 plays a beneficial role in protecting the brain from epileptic seizures in the engineered mice.

Noting that miR-211 is known to be elevated in the brains of Alzheimer's patients who are at high risk for epilepsy, the researchers suspect that in human brains as well, elevated miR-211 may act as a protective mechanism to reduce the risk of epileptic seizures.

“It is important to discover how only some people’s brains present a susceptibility to seizures, while others do not, even when subjected to these same stressors,” said Prof. Soreq. In searching for the physiological mechanisms that allow some people’s brains to avoid epilepsy, we found that increased levels of micro-RNA 211 could have a protective effect.”

According to the researchers, recognizing the importance of miR-211 could open new avenues for diagnosing and interfering with epilepsy. By understanding how miR-211 affects seizure thresholds, scientists could potentially develop therapeutics that lead to greater miR-211–production.

Participating researchers are affiliated with the following institutions: The Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences and The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel; Department of Physiology and Cell Biology and Department of Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; and Department of Medical Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, Canada. The authors thank the Netherlands Brain Bank for human-derived samples.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading academic and research institution, producing one-third of all civilian research in Israel. For more information, visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

# # #

CITATION: Dynamic changes in murine forebrain miR-211 expression associate with cholinergic imbalances and epileptiform activity. Uriya Bekenstein, Nibha Mishra, Dan Z. Milikovsky, Geula Hanin, Daniel Zelig, Liron Sheintuch, Amit Berson, David S. Greenberg, Alon Friedman, and Hermona Soreq. PNAS Early Edition, June 5, 2017. Doi:10.1073/pnas.1701201114. Link: www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1701201114

SUPPORT: The research was supported by grants to various researchers from: European Research Council Advanced Award 321501; European Union’s Seventh Framework Program FP7/2007–2013 Grant 602102, EPITARGET; Israeli Ministry of Science, Technology and Space Grant 53140; Legacy Heritage Science Initiative of the Israel Science Foundation Grants 817/13 and 717/15; the Planning and Budgeting Committee Q:35 and the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences postdoctoral fellowship; and the Howard and Diana Wendy Pre-doctoral Fellowship. 

- Dov Smith

Researchers find micro-gene that protects the brain from developing epilepsy
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European Neuroscience Outreach Award Goes to Hebrew University's ELSC Brain Sciences Center

07/07/2016

“Crucial for the public to understand that brain research affects each and every one of our lives, from basic decision-making processes to complex brain diseases.

The EDAB-FENS Brain Awareness Week Excellence Award for 2016 has been awarded to The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The Dana Foundation and the European Dana Alliance for the Brain (EDAB) presented the award in collaboration with the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS).

Celebrating special contributions to the promotion of brain awareness through continued public outreach efforts, the Neuroscience Outreach Awards were presented at FENS Forum 2016, Europe’s pre-eminent neuroscience meeting, on July 4 in Copenhagen.

Prof. Monica di Luca, FENS president, said: “The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have embraced public engagement as an integral part of their research agenda. People of all ages are intrigued by the creative brain, and here the scientists have found imaginative ways to combine neuroscience research with the arts.”

Established in 2010, the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences has a comprehensive and innovative research agenda that includes dialogue with the public. To this end, the Center initiated Art and the Brain Week, a series of lectures and cultural events including dance, art exhibitions and films that reveal the brain’s creative processes. Since 2011, Art and the Brain has reached more than 10,000 children and adults in Jerusalem and beyond, and thousands more through newspapers, radio and television.

Dr. Rafi Aviram, Executive Director, and Ms. Alona Shani-Narkiss, Events and Publications Coordinator of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences, accepted the award in Copenhagen.

Dr. Rafi Aviram said: “At ELSC we believe it is crucial for the public to understand that brain research affects each and every one of us in many aspects of our lives, from basic decision-making processes to complex brain diseases. Strengthening our bonds with the community, and enhancing the public's awareness of the importance of brain sciences, are integral to the advanced research conducted at The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences.”

Also honored at the awards ceremony was Prof. Paul Bolam, emeritus Senior Scientist at the MRC Brain Networks Dynamics Unit at the University of Oxford, who received the 2016 Dana/EDAB Neuroscience Outreach Champion award.

The 10th FENS Forum of Neuroscience, the largest basic neuroscience meeting in Europe, organized by FENS and hosted by the Danish Society for Neuroscience, attracted an estimated 6000 international delegates. The mission of FENS is to advance research and education in neuroscience within and outside Europe, to facilitate interaction and coordination between its members. FENS represents 43 national and single discipline neuroscience societies with about 24,000 member scientists from 33 European countries. http://www.fens.org/

About the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences:

The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) was founded in 2010 with the assistance of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, as an interdisciplinary center for brain sciences. The Center has an innovative and revolutionary research agenda for understanding the brain and its complex products: movement, perception, cognition, language, and creativity. Scientists at ELSC examine the brain from the level of the single neuron to complex human behavior using state-of-the-art scientific equipment and innovative research approaches: nanotechnologies, telemetry, and optogenetics. The unique integration of theoreticians with experimental researchers facilitates the simulation of brain activity using supercomputers utilizing mathematical and physical models to present the brain as an ever-changing, dynamic learning system.

One important component of ELSC’s vision is to maintain a dialogue between scientists and the general public. ELSC seeks to reach out to those who are interested in the impacts of brain sciences research and are directly influenced by it. By holding public lectures and hosting temporary exhibitions on the brain, with informational handouts and joint “brainstorming,” the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences renders brain research accessible to all who are interested. For more information, please visit http://elsc.huji.ac.il.

About The Hebrew University of Jerusalem:

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading university and premier research institution. Founded in 1918 by such innovative thinkers as Albert Einstein, Martin Buber and Sigmund Freud, the Hebrew University is a pluralistic institution where science and knowledge are advanced for the benefit of humankind. The Hebrew University is ranked internationally among the top 100 universities in the world, and first among Israeli universities. Serving 23,500 students from 85 countries, the Hebrew University produces a third of Israel’s civilian research, and its faculty are at the forefront of the international academic and scientific communities. For more information, please visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

European Neuroscience Outreach Award Goes to Hebrew University's ELSC Brain Sciences Center
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