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Computational Neuroscience

The Essence of ELSC’s Research Agenda: The Theoretical and Computational Model

ELSC is one of the few places in the world that approaches brain science by integrating different disciplines into a theoretical framework that encompasses all areas of research under investigation. This pioneering approach applies Aristotle’s principle that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” All research projects are related – each one individual in its focus; every one contributing to a greater understanding of the brain and how it functions; all of them interconnected.

The ELSC philosophy of investigation – simultaneously general and specific; deeply detailed and creatively comprehensive – stimulates imaginative thought processes that encourage the quest for unique solutions to purportedly intractable scientific dilemmas. Incorporating knowledge from a variety of seemingly unrelated academic and scientific specialties – biology, the life sciences, physics, computer science, mathematics, statistics, psychology and medicine – ELSC’s multidisciplinary teams assimilate the disparate components into an overall schematic.

ELSC’s distinctive Theoretical and Computational Model is at core of this concept, guiding innovative and interactive research into mechanisms of human behavior; genetic, molecular and cellular mechanisms, neuronal circuit mechanisms and the brain network as the basis of behavior.

This discipline – a combination of theoretical physics, advanced mathematics and sophisticated computer technology – assists ELSC scientists in their research by creating powerful models of working neural networks. ELSC focuses on studying computation in neuronal circuits, bolstered by the belief that a high-resolution understanding of local neuronal circuits – from genes to neurons and synapses – combined with a global theory of the brain’s computational principles could lead to a comprehensive understanding of brain mechanisms. These approaches are particularly useful for bridging the different levels and scales of description, from the molecular scale, through single neurons, to local circuits, large-scale neural networks and behavior.

Genetic, Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms

The interdisciplinary methodologies that integrate genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics are a relatively new and powerful approach to unraveling the molecular mechanisms underlying neural structure and function and to determining the genetic coding, development, function and plasticity of the nervous system. In view of the worldwide initiatives, vast investments and major developments in these fields, it is evident that the future of neuroscience will incorporate and expand these revolutionary methodologies in brain studies.

Mechanisms of Human Behavior

Characterized by an interest in forming a unified neuronal and computational conceptualization of high-level cognitive processes – perception, working memory, language – cognitive neuroscience is vital to making the link between animal studies and human perception and cognition. Using a broad range of advanced technologies to monitor human brain activity, ELSC teams are developing pioneering methods to characterize cognitive and behavioral phenomena. The close collaboration between researchers of systems neuroscience and researchers of computational approaches enhances their investigations. As interdisciplinary interactions increase, ELSC researchers believe that the golden age of sophisticated use of various imaging technologies is just beginning.

The Brain Network as the Basis of Behavior

Experiments that provide the link between understanding the basic circuits of neural networks and the complex behavior of whole organisms, in general – and the behavioral processes in humans, in particular – are essential to ELSC’s integrative effort. While smaller animals are best suited for the study of local circuits, non-human primate (NHP) models provide a better understanding of the link between the circuit and behavior because the neural systems that control behavior of humans and non-human primates have the same structure and function. NHP studies are an important component in translating new discoveries to clinical applications because they can bridge the gap between human clinical and non-clinical studies and research.

Neuronal Circuit Mechanisms

Impressive technological and methodological advances in genetic, molecular and imaging methods have made studies of local neuronal circuits an exciting area of brain research. Already involved in the use of these technologies, ELSC is dedicated to advancing their development to study the role of local neuronal circuits, assess how neuromodulators and behavior alter local neuronal circuits, and evaluate the role of non-neuronal elements in brain function in health and disease.

Read more on www.elsc.huji.ac.il


As one of the world’s leading academic and research institutions, The Hebrew University enrolls more than 23,000 students from Israel and 70 additional countries in its seven academic Faculties in the Humanities, Science, Law, Social Sciences, Agriculture, Dental Medicine, and Medicine. Faculty and alumni of The Hebrew University have won seven Nobel Prizes in one decade.

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Understanding The Brain: Edmond & Lily Safra Center For Brain Sciences

"Man ought to know that from the brain, and only from the brain, arise our joys, delights, laughter and sports, as well as our sorrows, grief, despondency, and lamentations and especially we acquire wisdom and knowledge, see and hear, and know what is foul and what is fair, what is bad and what is good."

Hippocrates - 5th-century Greek physician


In 2009, more than a millennium after Hippocrates identified this aspect of our persona – the Hebrew University inaugurated the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) building on its acknowledged excellence on neuroscience research.

Today, ELSC's scientists and physicians are eagerly embracing the challenge of deciphering exactly how the brain governs our lives. Delving deeply into the intricate interfaces that orchestrate the brain’s behavior, ELSC’s multidisciplinary teams are exploring the physiological relationships that explain how the brain functions and malfunctions. Marrying theory with practice, they are constantly acquiring new insights that can lead to innovative approaches and greater understanding of the brain sciences.



The Edmond J. Safra Foundation’s lead donation of $50 million launched the establishment of ELSC and continues to support this innovative center. Mr. Safra created his Swiss foundation to ensure that needy individuals and organizations would continue to receive his assistance and encouragement for many years to come. Following his death in 1999, his wife, Lily, assumed responsibility for ensuring that the Edmond J. Safra Foundation draws inspiration from its founder’s life and continues to be dedicated to his visionary beliefs.

The Friends of the Hebrew University in Europe are actively involved in providing significant support for the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences as well as the university’s extensive academic and intellectual pursuits and instrumental in helping establish international collaborations.