German president lauds Israeli scientific cooperation

Wulff visits Hebrew University campus where dozens of projects being carried out together with research institutions in Germany.

November 29, 2010 03:26
2 minute read.
German President Christian Wulff

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.

So 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 institutes.

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.

HU president 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 physicist.

“Einstein once said that progress results from exchange of knowledge,” the German president said, with translation into English by an interpreter.

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 disorders.

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 Shoval.

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 work.

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.

Eilon 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.

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