Max Planck researcher receives animal welfare award

The German Research Foundation awards the Ursula M. Händel Animal Welfare Prize to Hamid R. Noori

August 06, 2018

The number of scientific publications is growing steadily and experts struggle to maintain an overview in their field. Along with his team at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Hamid Noori has analysed thousands of studies on neurochemical processes in rat brain and has made his findings freely available in specially developed data bases. Using a computer model, the researchers are also able to predict the effect of novel substances on the rat brain. As a result, future study designs can be optimized, and unnecessary investigations can be avoided. For these achievements, the German Research Foundation (DFG) awards Hamid Noori the Ursula M. Händel Animal Welfare Prize 2018.

Big data has long been a reality in neurosciences. Massive data are created on daily bases and the number of scientific publications has also virtually exploded over the past few years. There are tens of thousands of publications relating to neurochemical processes in rat brain alone. In light of such figures, it is nearly impossible to maintain an overview.

In his research at the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen, Hamid Noori integrates the findings of several decades of neurobiological research into consistent platforms available to all scientists. He and his colleagues have, for example, developed a data base of the chemical connectivity patterns of rat brain. To do so, the scientists first drew up a catalogue of criteria for assessing the results of studies. Based on these criteria they then analysed the results and methods of more than 10,000 studies performed on over 35,000 rats, and integrated this information into a multilayer data base. “Our goal was to characterize a comprehensive map of the chemical wiring diagram of rat brain – a so called neurochemical connectome,” explains Noori.

In a different study, Noori has analysed the effects of all 260 neuropsychiatric drugs on rat brain that has ever been investigated experimentally. This information is also compiled in a freely available online data base. Researchers are thus able to use the data from 150,000 rats for their own research work. As a result they are able to determine early on, which findings about the effect of a drug are already available.

Modelling drug effects

Furthermore, Noori has developed a mathematical model based on both data bases. With this model it is possible to predict the dynamics of drug effects brain neurochemistry and physiology and make robust predictions of the systems level impact of known and novel neuroactive compounds.

The work of the researchers in Tübingen helps neuroscientists in their efforts to reduce the number of experiments and the burden on the test animals. “Our models enable us to screen substances for systemic efficacy prior to experiments. Our databases may also help to adjust the test hypotheses based on existing findings and would potentially reduce unnecessary and repetitive investigations. Consequently, scientists may require less animal experiments to derive robust conclusions. Moreover, we will assist our colleagues in their efforts to refine studies in an evidence-based manner,” says Noori.

In view of the extraordinary complexity of brains processes at all interconnected levels, animal experiments will remain an essential part of neuroscientific research in the foreseeable future. Neuroscientists therefore rely in particular on animal experiments, in particular on rodents and primates.

About Hamid Noori

Hamid Reza Noori holds doctorates in mathematics and physics and he is habilitated in medicine. Following research stays in the US (Princeton and New York Universities), France, Japan and Germany, the scientist who was born in Isfahan in Iran, has been leading the independent Research Group ‘Neuronal Convergence’ at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen since 2016. In cooperation with Nikos Logothetis and his Department, as well as with Mikhael Gromov from the New York University, Noori’s research group is striving to develop multidisciplinary methods to improve our understanding of the interrelationship between brain processes and behaviour.

DFG Animal Welfare Prize

The German Research Foundation awards the Ursula M. Händel Animal Welfare Prize to researchers, who contribute to an improvement of animal welfare in research. This includes in particular the development of methods that help to reduce, refine or substitute animal testing. The prize worth EUR 100,000 is awarded every two years.


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