German President Christian Wulff.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
German universities and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are collaborating on
a large number of research projects – from understanding brain function to
following the demented with global positioning system devices to document their
cognitive decline – because of scientific excellence on both sides.
said German Federal Republic President Christian Wulff, who on Sunday visited
the HU campus on Mount Scopus to meet scientists and administrators and learn
about their cooperation in dozens of projects with the University of Heidelberg
and other research institutions in Germany.
The 51-year-old president,
who was elected just last summer, said he has followed such collaboration for
some time as he previously was a member of the senate of the prestigious Max
Planck Institute for the Advancement of Science. Wulff noted that Israel and
Germany had scientific ties before they had diplomatic relations. It was pointed
out that per capita, HU has the most joint research projects with German
An exhibition of original documents handwritten by Albert
Einstein, previously on view in Jerusalem, is being shown in Germany, said
Wulff, who added he was pleased that an additional agreement of scientific
cooperation with Israeli academia will be signed next month.
Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson noted that a number of German researchers will receive
honorary doctorates from his university in June. Ben-Sasson also presented Wulff
with an English-language edition of a volume on the great Jewish
“Einstein once said that progress results from exchange of
knowledge,” the German president said, with translation into English by an
Wulff, who is on a state visit, said that “terror goes on in
the world. We need to remember the victims of terror. It is very important for
us to be concerned with the security of Israel.”
Dr. Noam Shoval of the
HU’s geography department presented research by his and the University of
Heidelberg’s scientists that uses GPS technology to trace the movements of
people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and related cognitive
Urban areas in Tel Aviv and the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan
areas were the sites of such research, in which healthy and demented people in
various stages of Alzheimer’s were fitted with GPS devices to see where they
were going. Those with dementia walked within a limited circumference and a
strange, irregular pattern compared to healthy subjects, said
Auch studies could help in the diagnosis of diseases of cognitive
decline, he said.
The research looked at how people move through space,
what types of transportation they use, where they spend their time and how much
of their time is spent at home. While the researchers are still gathering
information on the project, they have already published 15 articles on their
Shoval noted that the GPS system could also be used to compare
males and females.
“On Fridays, when healthy Israeli men should be
helping their families to prepare Shabbat, they are more likely than women to go
out,” he added with a smile.
The ability to understand a person’s
intentions by “reading” his brain activity was discussed by Prof.
Vaadia, acting director of HU’s Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences.
Two groups from Germany and two groups from Israel participated in the project.