President Shimon Peres presented scholarship grants to the total value of NIS 2m. to 10 outstanding doctoral students, engaged in various fields of brain research, on Monday.

Aged between 26 and 32, the students are studying or have studied at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Tel Aviv University, Bar Ilan University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Neurology Department at the Weizmann Institute.

Through their diverse areas of research they are hoping to develop new techniques for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, depression, autism and attention deficit disorders; enabling people paralyzed through injury or stroke to regain the use of their limbs, relieve severe visual impairments, discover new ways in which to alleviate pain and learn how daily medication impacts the brain.

The young researchers are Shiri Ron, Ori Iosmi, Mor Bentov, Hiba Zeidan, Avital Hachmi, Tehar Yarden, Boaz Mohar, Rita Peretz, Niv Regev and Daniel Reznik.

After presenting them with their grants, Peres told them how glad he was that they had chosen courses of study designed to make the world a better place.

To the audience, compiled of members of Israel’s scientific community and relatives of the awardees, he said: “You have just seen the future.”

Peres, who has been encouraging Israel’s technological development since Ben Gurion appointed him director general of the Defense Ministry, strongly believes that Israel’s best and most far reaching asset is its brain power.

Peres is convinced that within the next decade many of the brain’s secrets will be unlocked.

The one that interests him most is what it is that makes people decide to act one way or another.

In pressing for Israel to make brain research a priority, Peres established a voluntary think tank of some of the nation’s best scientific brains.

The team is headed by Professor Yadin Dudai, professor of neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute, who is an internationally acclaimed expert on memory.

Gesturing towards the 10 young researchers, who were the best of scores of applicants judged by a panel of leading Israeli brain scientists, Dudai said “this the first time I’m on stage with 10 people who are all cleverer than I am.”

He gave four reasons for brain research’s leap to prominence in the 21st century.

The first is curiosity, “it’s the most mysterious of all sciences, the one of which we know the least,” he said.

The second is the belief that it can lead to the cure or prevention of many physical ailments.

The third reason is technology. The most sophisticated computers can’t do some of the things that a two weeks old baby can do, said Dudai, and this poses a challenge, because the human brain, which is still superior, can continue to produce increasingly innovative technologies.

The fourth reason is economics. A state and a nation that is not in the forefront of brain technology today will lag behind in its economy, because it cannot compete, said Dudai.

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