January 09, 2013
The Max Planck Society and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are broadening their scientific links, and have now established the Max Planck-Hebrew University Center for Sensory Processing of the Brain in Action. “The Center raises our long-standing partnership in the field of neuroscience to a new level of quality. It offers the prospect of an entirely new dimension in the study of the brain in particular,” emphasised Max Planck President Peter Gruss at the inaugural ceremony on January 9th in Jerusalem.
On the German side, the Center is sponsored by the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, with Directors Tobias Bonhoeffer and Alexander Borst, and Nobel Prize winner Bert Sakmann taking a lead role. They are partnered in Israel by the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at the University of Jerusalem, headed by scientists Idan Segev, Adi Mizrahi and Haim Sompolinsky. Through the medium of joint projects, they will be studying the functional building blocks of the brain – the neuronal circuits. The Center’s scientific mission is to decipher the interaction between sensory perceptions and behaviour. The team of scientists at the new Center combines a wealth of expertise in various sensory systems including touch, sight, hearing and smell. They are also using a variety of animal models, including the fly and the mouse.
Through a combination of experiments, computer-assisted modelling and theory, the researchers are studying both individual nerve cells as well as circuits of cells, and analysing how sensory perceptions are processed in the brain. They are particularly keen to understand how perceptions lead to certain behavioural patterns, and in turn how behaviour impacts on perception. “The outstanding team at the Center is ideally positioned to address one of the great unsolved questions of neuroscience, namely how sensory processing in the brain influences animal behaviour, and vice versa,” emphasised Peter Gruss.
The new research partnership promotes the exchange of ideas between German and Israeli scientists and also encompasses support for junior scientists. For example, grant programmes are available for talented postdoctoral scientists to enable them to participate in projects at both locations.
The establishment of Max Planck Centers is part of the Max Planck Society’s strategy of internationalisation. Besides helping to broaden knowledge-driven cooperation in specific fields, the Centers also serve to consolidate research links with other leading science-oriented nations