The Weizmann Institute in Rehovot and the Max Planck Society in Germany signed a cooperation agreement for joint research in cognitive, emotional, behavioral and neurological disorders.

Some 450 million people around the world suffer from some form of mental illness alone.

The Max Planck-Weizmann Laboratory for Experimental Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Neurogenetics will be located in Rehovot and headed by Prof. Alon Chen of Weizmann.

The agreement was signed at Weizmann on Tuesday by Max Planck Society president Prof. Dr.

Peter Gruss; Weizmann Institute president Prof. Daniel Zajfman; Max Planck general secretary Dr. Ludwig Kronthaler; and Weizmann vice president Prof. Haim Garty.

Lab researchers will conduct basic studies on the causes of these disorders, about which it is becoming increasingly clear that they arise from a complex interplay between genetics and environment, Chen said. The field of neuropsychiatry attempts to untangle this relationship and understand the process by which genetic makeup and variations in physical brain structure lead to particular behaviors or mental illness.

Researchers from the German and Israeli institutes will directly address such complex psychiatric disorders as depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and autism, using a wide range of multidisciplinary research methods, from the genomic and biochemical to the clinical. According to the agreement, the laboratory will support joint research projects of scientists at the two institutes, host joint seminars and symposia, arrange exchanges of visiting scientists and students, and create opportunities for research students to get joint training.

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