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Jewish Times Asia March 2015

Regional News

Israel-Japan to foster cooperation in brain research

The Weizmann Institute’s Dr. Ofer Yizhar, one of the conference organisers, is currently involved in a collaborative research project with RIKEN researcher Toru Takumi. “Takumi

Professor Shimon Ullman

RHCC

They attended a Brain Science conference which was jointly hosted by the Weizmann Institute of Science and the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan. Weizmann and RIKEN researchers have been working to advance scientific collaboration between the two institutes and the two countries.

Weizmann Institute of Science

Following the recent visit of Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, to Israel in January, a group of leading Japanese scientists visited the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot Israel.

Operation Smile in Vietnam

Participants in the Israel-Japan conference.

Dr. Omri Emodi (left) with a baby Vietnamese patient

creates mice that have a genetic defect which mimics autism, while my optogenetics lab can work with these mice, turning neurons in the brain “on” and “off” with light. Together, we hope to discover how autistic spectrum disorder develops in the brain and what neural mechanisms are involved in autistic behaviourisms,” says Yizhar.

For over 30 years, the international ‘Operation Smile’ campaign has provided over 200,000 free surgical procedures to children and young adults around the world suffering from facial deformities, giving each one a new start in life in some of the world’s most impoverished communities.

During the two day conference, speakers touched on many different aspects of brain research: Yasunori Hayashi of RIKEN, gave a talk on the roles of the cells’ internal cytoskeleton in maintaining the plasticity of the synapses between certain brain cells. The keynote speaker, Professor Shimon Ullman of the Weizmann Institute,

gave a talk on visual recognition a subject that crosses the boundaries between neuroscience and artificial intelligence.

Informal events and visits to labs during the conference gave the researchers an opportunity to meet and discuss ideas for future research directions.

“RIKEN is the premier brain research centre in Japan, and one of the best in the world,” says Professor Yadin Dudai, Weizmann Institute of Science. “We see that much of Weizmann Institute research complements that being done in Japan; there is great potential to work together in many areas. This can benefit both sides, and we hope to see more cooperation in the future,” he added.

During this year’s Operation Smile campaign in Vietnam, two Israeli doctors joined 300 delegation members from 18 countries in January, to provide free reconstructive surgery for children born with conditions such as cleft lip and cleft palate as well as other facial deformities.

Dr. Omri Emodi and Dr. Zach Sharony hail from Rambam’s Health Care Campus. Dr. Emodi works in the hospital’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Dr. Zach Sharony works in the Department of Plastic Surgery.

A cleft is an opening in the lip, the roof of the mouth or the soft tissue in the back of the mouth, while cleft palate occurs when the two sides of a palate do not join together. Children born with cleft conditions often suffer from ear disease and dental problems as well problems with speech development. They may also have difficulty speaking, hearing, breathing or eating properly.

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March 2015 • Volume 9 • Issue 10 • Adar / Nissan 5775