New Hebrew University center premises to unlock the mysteries of the brain

The 14,500-sq.-m. center includes state-of-the-art labs, classrooms, an innovative imaging center and areas for biological and preclinical research.

The Hebrew University (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Hebrew University
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
More than 400 people from Israel and abroad will help dedicate the permanent new premises of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
The gala opening of the largest neuroscience center in Israel and one of the most ambitious in the world will be attended by Lily Safra, a leading supporter of neuroscience research projects around the world and head of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, which pledged a lead donation of $50 million of the center’s $150 million initial budget.
“I am truly thrilled to join in celebrating this defining moment for ELSC when such an extraordinary new building becomes home to a remarkable community of researchers and students,” said Safra. “Their multidisciplinary study of the brain’s secrets will surely make a profound impact on how we treat disease and care for patients. I know that my [late] husband Edmond would [have shared] my deep sense of pride that our names are associated with such pioneering work, and with such dedicated and inspiring people."
Harnessing the extraordinary opportunities created by advances in technology and medicine, ELSC is shaping the next generation of researchers to advance the brain sciences and transform the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders, said HU president Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson. “ELSC is unique in the way it brings together theoretical and experimental researchers to develop pioneering approaches to brain science.”
Lord Norman Foster, the award-winning Founder and Executive Chairman of British architectural firm Foster+Partners, which designed the new Center, will participate in its opening event.
“The project for the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences is much like a city in microcosm, with some of the same challenges, such as how we best create a sense of community, share knowledge, bring people together and support collective endeavors towards common goal. The building works flexibly, accommodating a diverse range of requirements from customizable, individual workstations to a central courtyard that is the social heart, breaking the traditional mold of learning and making the process more collaborative” said Foster.
The 14,500 square-meter center includes state-of-the-art labs, classrooms, an innovative imaging center and areas for biological and preclinical research. Significant emphasis was placed on constructing an environmentally friendly building with a focus on conserving energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Prof. Israel Nelken, co-director of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences, said: "At the center, scientists follow an interdisciplinary agenda to uncover the causal links between genes, neurons and circuits from which cognition and behavior emerge, paving the way to a wide spectrum of future applications, from clever gadgets that improve quality of life to better health care.”
ELSC scientists have already paved a way towards fundamental understanding of brain processes in health and disease. Computational neuroscientist Prof. Idan Segev uses mathematical tools to digitally reconstruct a whole piece of cortical circuits using powerful computers. Using these models his team recently discovered rich structures or connectivity previously unknown. These “hidden” circuit structures pose constraints on how sensory information is processed in the neocortex. Prof. Merav Ahissar, who has studied dyslexia for many years, recently found that a central problem for dyslexics is forming prediction, a fundamental aspect of brain computing that governs our behaviors.
ELSC’s young generation of researchers such as Dr. Ami Citri also have impressive achievements; he received  the prestigious $100,000 Adelis Brain Research Award for his outstanding work in the field of experience-dependent plasticity and its impact on diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders.