ASC 2012 Program‎ > ‎

Lectures & Lecturers

Computer Science department

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Quantum computation

Quantum computation is one of the most exciting and fast developing scientific areas of our time. In 1994 Shor discovered that FACTORING, which is a notoriously difficult problem which bothered mathematicians for centuries, can be solved efficiently by quantum computers. This discovery caused a lot of excitement all over the world, since the hardness of factoring is the basis for the security of the commonly used cryptosystem called RSA; Quantum computers, if ever built, will be able to crack this cryptosystem in no time.

What makes quantum computers so much faster and stronger? the point is that information will be processed in those computers based on the peculiar and counter-intuitive laws of quantum mechanics. One of these laws is the superposition principle, which says that a cat can be both dead and alive at the same time. In analogy, by the superposition principle the quantum computer will be able to explore all its computational possibilities at the same time, which gives it, essentially, exponential parallelism. This will allow the quantum computer to quickly reach solutions to problems which are believed to be impossible to solve in less than the lifetime of the universe, by any regular (classical) computer.

Shor's discovery led to a revolution. First of all, mathematicians and computer scientists have immediately started to search for new quantum algorithms for other difficult problems. Various algorithms were found in the past two decades; we have surely seen only the tip of the iceberg. At the same time, experimentalists around the world took up the most difficult challenge to try to physically realize large scale quantum computers; so far, computers of up to order of ten quantum bits were realized, but there does not seem to be a true barrier.  Cryptographers were led on their side to find cryptosystems which will be secure against even quantum attacks; so far with partial success. Finally, the new computers provide a computational point of view on quantum mechanics, and has changed the way physicists study quantum systems, leading to a whole new set of questions in physics.

In the talk, I will describe the ideas and principles that underlie the quantum information revolution, and I will also explain some of the most exciting open problem and challenges.

Isaiah (Shy) Arkin

Department of Biological Chemistry,
The Hebrew UnIversity of Jerusalem

Membrane transport, theory and experimentation


 Micha Asscher

The Institute of Chemistry 

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Energy problems addressed by surface science approach

Modern energy needs with alternative sourced searched for extensively are at the focus of interest of modern science and technology. Model heterogeneous catalysis and photo-induced surface processes enhanced by nanometer size particles will be addressed in this talk. Buffer layer assisted growth and characterization of nano-clusters of pure and bimetallic alloys and oxide films will be described. Their structure, thermodynamic stability, diffusivity, chemical reactivity and selectivity will be discussed. Our model reaction is the conversion of acetylene to both ethylene and benzene. Thermal stability of metallic clusters has been studied employing laser ablation and diffraction techniques with the aim to develop high temperature, sintering resistant catalysts. Future study of methane conversion to methanol will be discussed.

Photo-induced processes at the solid-vacuum interface are important for the potential conversion of solar energy into electrical power and as storage in energetic chemical bonds. We have investigated the effect of UV light on fundamental surface processes such as photo-desorption and dissociation. We found great selectivity and enhancement of such processes at the vicinity of nanometer size tips and roughness within porous silicon. This environment will be discussed as a potential new photo-voltaic device, combining conducting polymers as hole carrier with the porous silicon matrix as the electron mobility medium.

Finally, static electric fields generated by solvated electrons within condensed ice layers form a new concept of "nano-capacitor". Its effect on excited state processes will be discussed as a potential enhancing element of photo-induced processes at the solid-gas interface.

Robert J. Aumann

Nobel Laureate - Economics 2005

Center for Rationality, Mathematics Faculty

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

War and Peace

We suggest a new approach in the quest for world peace. Up to now, all the efforts have been put into resolving specific conflicts. We here suggest trying to understand war as a general phenomenon, without immediately seeking solutions. Much like in the battle against disease, the phenomenon must be understood before it can be treated.


David Avnir

Institute of Chemistry

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

On Left and Right: Chirality from molecules to galaxies

Chirality is a shape property by which an object may have both left and right versions; the left and right hands are an example that is familiar to all. It turns out that chirality is a central issue all across the natural sciences, and is of importance even in the arts.  First we shall familiarize ourselves with that concept and ask ourselves, what in a shape makes it possible to obtain left and right forms, and which objects are devoid of this special property? We shall then see that chirality is everywhere – from microscopic molecules, to materials, to living organisms and up to huge galaxies. Next we shall understand why chirality is highly crucial in the life sciences and in medicine, and we shall touch on issues of the origins of life and on how life might look on different planets. We shall devote few slides to the question of how is chirality detected and measured, and to how is chirality induced in molecules and in materials. As time will allow; we shall explore the relation between randomness and chirality; we shall see that while the definition of chirality is clear-cut, the definition of handedness (the labeling as left or right) is inherently more complex; we shall try to answer the question of how much "leftness" is there in a chiral left-handed object; and we shall see why chirality is important for architects and for archeologists.

The long route from basic science to an exporting company

The origins of all of modern technology, modern medicine, contemporary social trends, and to some extent also the arts, have been routed in basic science, that is in the science that asks the most elementary questions, without necessarily having a pragmatic goal on the horizon. And it should be so, because one can never fully envisage and fully grasp the outcome of research motivated purely by curiosity and by the will to explore the unknown. And yet, it is the responsibility of the scientist dealing with this frontier type of research to be open minded and inquisitive of possible applications that might emerge from her/his research for society and humanity to gain from. The road from the early basic science stage to a practical application which merges into the economy, into health care, and into cutting-edge technology is very long and very treacherous. Through the story of Sol-Gel Technologies, an Israeli company that specializes in dermatological products, we shall follow that long road. We shall describe the original basic science that solved the problem of how to merge organic compounds within ceramic matrices; we shall then continue to the crucial stage of identifying a need in the market and a product which answers that need and which is based on that technology; and we shall touch on problems such as raising investments, protecting the know-how with patents and fighting for them, and converting laboratory procedures to large-scale processes and finally to products.

Nissim Benvenisty

Department of Genetics

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem 

Human embryonic stem cells – the new frontier in medical research

Human embryonic stem (ES) cells are pluripotent cells derived from in vitro fertilized blastocysts. These cells are a unique scientific and medical resource, which is rapidly changing the fields of cell therapy and drug discovery. Human ES cells may differentiate in culture through the formation of embryoid bodies, which contain cells from the three embryonic germ layers. Using multiple growth factors, differentiation of human ES cells may be directed into various different cell types such as neurons, cardiomycytes, hepatocytes, etc. Differentiation of the cells may also be achieved by placing them next to developing tissues, as has been shown by induction of human neuronal rosettes following transplantation into the chick embryo. By genetically engineering the cells one may achieve a better reagent for cell transplantation, where specific cell types can be genetically labeled, and sorted from a mixed culture of differentiated cells. In addition, a suicide gene may be introduced into the cells to enable control over their fate, further to their transplantation. Finally, human ES cells may be genetically modified to serve as models for human diseases. Human ES cells already serve as a source of cells in transplantation medicine, and as a tool to identify therapy for human genetic disorders.

Hagai Bergman

Department of Neurobiology (Physiology), IMRIC and ELSC

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


Previous reinforcement-learning models of the basal ganglia (BG) network have highlighted the role of dopamine (BG critics) in encoding the mismatch between prediction and reality. These models underscore the role of dopamine in modulating the efficacy of the cortico-striatal synapses and modification of the state to action mapping. Far less attention has been paid to the role of other BG critics and to the computational algorithms of the main-axis (actor) of the BG network

Here, we suggest that the BG computational goal is not to maximize cumulative (positive and negative) reward. Rather, the BG aim at optimization of independent gain and cost functions. Unlike previously suggested single-variable maximization processes, this multi-dimensional optimization process leads naturally to a softmax-like behavioral policy. The direct effects of dopamine, acetylcholine and 5-HT on striatal excitability provide a fast and robust pseudo-temperature signal that immediately modulates the tradeoff between gain and cost and the ongoing behavioral policy. The modulation of the efficacy of the cortico-striatal transmission and the resulting learning of state to action mapping is a slow and subtle process.

This experience and dopamine modulated softmax behavioral policy can serve as a theoretical framework to account for the broad range of neuronal activities, behaviors and clinical states expressed and governed by the BG networks.


Howard Cedar

Molecular Biology,

the Hebrew University in Jerusalem

The footnotes of life

 Endless curiosity, admits Professor Howard Cedar, has driven him to investigate some of the most fundamental questions in human genetics — questions about the mechanisms that control the development of the incredibly diverse collection of cells that constitutes the human body. His research, first published back in the late 1970s, not only identified how cells control their development but also initiated a whole new field of science known as epigenetics. And what began as fundamental research over three decades ago is now beginning to yield profound insights into the causes of cancer, as well as understanding about a range of genetic diseases.

In this lecture Prof. Cedar will talk regards his life’s research as being “focused on one central idea” concerning how cells select the genetic information they need to function and ignore the rest of the genetic package. He describes the genetic information, or DNA, contained within every cell of our bodies as “an instruction booklet”; and about his challenge to understand how any particular cell uses only a few relevant pages of the book and ignores the rest.



Aaron Ciechanover

Nobel Laureate - Chemistry 2004

Cancer and Vascular Biology Research Center, Faculty of Medicine,

Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

The Personalized Medicine Revolution: Are We Going to Cure all Diseases and at what Price?

Many important drugs such as penicillin, aspirin, or digitalis, were discovered by serendipity - some by curious researchers who accidentally noted a "strange" phenomenon, and some by isolation of active ingredients form plants known for centuries to have a specific therapeutic effect.  Other major drugs like the cholesterol reducing statins were discovered using more advanced technologies, such as targeted screening of large chemical libraries.  In all these cases, the mechanism of action of the drug were largely unknown at the time of their discovery, and were unraveled only later.  With the realization that patients with apparently similar diseases at diagnosis – breast or prostate cancer, for example - respond differently to similar treatments, and the clinical behavior of the disease is different in different patients, we have begun to understand that the mechanistic/molecular basis of what we thought is the same disease entity, is different.  Thus, breast cancer or prostate cancers appear to be sub-divided to smaller distinct classes according to their molecular characteristics.  As a result, we are exiting the era where our approach to treatment of these and many other diseases is “one size fits all”, and enter a new era of “personalized medicine” where we shall tailor the treatment according to the patient’s molecular/mutational profile.  Here, unlike the previous era, the understanding of the mechanism will drive the development of new drugs.  This era will be characterized initially by the development of technologies where sequencing and data processing of individual genomes will be fast (few hours) and cheap (<US$ 1,000), by identification and characterization of new disease-specific molecular markers and drug targets, and by design of novel, mechanism-based drugs to modulate the activities of these targets.  It will require a change in our approach to scientific research and development and to education, where interdisciplinarity will domineer and replace in many ways the traditional, discipline-oriented approach.  Entry into this era will be also accompanied by complex bioethical problems, where detailed genetic information of large populations in developed countries will be available, and protection of privacy will become an important issue for health authorities.        

Ehud de Shalit

Einstein Institute of Mathematics

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


Squares have captured the imagination of number theorists ever since the Greeks. Some of the best known gems of mathematics, such as Gauss’ law of quadratic reciprocity and Lagrange’s four squares theorem, are connected with squares. We shall use this theme to give an introduction to modern number theory, ending with topics of current research.

Benjamin Geiger

Department of Molecular Cell Biology

The Weizmann Institute of Science

How do living cells sense the environment?

The adhesive interactions of cells with their environment regulate a wide variety of cellular responses that affect multiple cellular features, including cell proliferation, survival, gene expression and migration. These signals are affected by a wide variety of environmental cues, including both chemical and physical properties of the surrounding surface. Thus, cells can differentially sense and respond to different adhesive molecules located on the surface of neighboring cells or connective tissues, as well as to the geometry, rigidity, contractility and topography of the external surface. This highly complex information can be “gathered” by the cells via their matrix adhesion sites, and can then be processed and integrated, ultimately affecting a wide variety of major cellular processes, as outlined above. Interestingly, this adhesion-mediated crosstalk between the cells and the matrix is often perturbed in cancer cells, leading to many features of what is referred to as “the transformed phenotype,” which distinguishes cancer cells from their normal counterparts. In this lecture, I will address the major aspects of these rather complex molecular interactions and sensing events, focusing on the molecular diversity of cell adhesions, and their multiple roles in regulating cell structure, migration and fate. All in all, this lecture should provide some insight into the capacity of cells to maintain “social interactions” that enable them to function within the larger context of tissues and whole organisms.

For additional insights, please see:


The great migration of living cells

 The great migration of living cells

As we all know, all living organisms are made up of common elementary building blocks, known as cells. Some organisms, such as bacteria or ameba, are made up of only  one cell, while in the human body, there might be as many as about 1014 cells. Each of the cells building a complex organism contains the same basic genetic material; yet during development, cells undergo differentiation, which leads to the formation of multiple cell types, with diverse functions and shapes. To the naked eye, the mature body appears to be a very well organized and robust structure, yet examination of tissues and organs with powerful microscopes reveals highly dynamic behavior at the cellular level. Indeed,  active and precisely monitored cell migrations are common and essential processes, which play key roles in such physiological processes as embryonic development, immunological responses, and wound healing, as well as pathological processes such as cancer cell invasion and metastasis. In this talk, we will discuss the mechanisms underlying cell migration, including the migration “motor” systems, migration directionality and navigation, the nature of migratory tracks within the body, and possible approaches for restoring physiological migratory processes. These processes will be discussed at different levels, ranging from the molecular level to the level of the intact, full-size organism.

 For additional insights, please see:



Oded Hod

Chemical Physics Department, School of Chemistry,

The Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences, Tel-Aviv University,

Interlayer Commensurability and Sliding in Layered Materials: the Power of the Registry Index

The relation between surface commensurability and sliding friction in layered materials opens the way to design practically frictionless nanoscale interfaces. In the past decade, novel experimental techniques accompanied with sophisticated computational models have allowed the successful characterization of several layered materials identifying the condition under which a superlubric state may occur. Most of the theoretical approaches studying this phenomenon are based classical mechanics simulations of either phenomenological or explicit   atomistic models of the sliding interface. Phenomenological model are able to treat relatively large interfaces, however they are limited to general conclusions with no material specific information. Atomistic models, on the other hand, account for the detailed structure of the interface, however due to their computational complexity they are limited to relatively small interface dimensions. Here, I present the registry index (RI) as a simple quantitative geometric measure of the degree of commensurability between two surfaces. The RI is shown to fully reproduce the sliding energy landscape calculated by state-of-the-art density functional theory calculations for several layered materials such as bilayer graphene, h-BN, and MoS2 as well as corresponding tubular structures. Furthermore, the model fully captures experimental measurements of the sliding friction between a graphene flake and a graphite surface. The geometric nature of the RI model results in negligible computational costs allowing the treatment of very large systems which are beyond the scope of current advanced ab-initio calculations. 

The Remarkable Graphene – a glimpse into the physics and chemistry of the material of the future

Carbon is one of the most diverse elements. One can find it at the end of the pencil, inside the living cell and on an exclusive ring. During the 80's and the 90's of the 20th century new allotropes of carbon were discovered and among them, the C60 molecule, which was discovered by a team of led by Richard Smalley of Rice University, a discovery that awarded the researchers the Nobel Prize, and of nanotubes discovered by Sumio Iijima of Japan. These systems are characterized by a cage-like structure and exceptional electronic and mechanical features. Finding these structures has revolutionized both Chemistry and Physics and technologies aspects derived from these materials.

Graphite is known allotrope of carbon which is characterized by layered structure. Although the physics of a single layer of graphite (graphene) has been known since 1947, scientists believed that it is impossible to isolate single graphene layer, and that such a system would be unstable. Maybe that's why that only in 2004, Manchester University team of scientists led by Andre Geim succeeded in isolating a single graphene layer and in measuring its extraordinary physical properties. This discovery led to technological revolution in physics and chemistry as currently graphene structures can be produced in sizes ranging from nano-strips - that may be used for nano-electronics to TV screen-sized boards used for touch screens.

In this lecture I will give a glimpse into graphene's short history and review some of the physical and chemical properties of these remarkable systems.

Batsheva Kerem

National Genomic Knowledge

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The molecular basis for chromosomal instability in early stages of cancer development

Chromosomal instability in early cancer stages is caused by stress on DNA replication. The molecular basis for replication perturbation in this context is currently unknown. We studied the replication dynamics in cells in which a regulator of S-phase entry and cell proliferation, the Rb-E2F pathway, is aberrantly activated. Aberrant activation of this pathway by HPV-16 E6/E7 or cyclin E oncogenes, significantly decreased the cellular nucleotide levels in the newly transformed cells. Exogenously supplied nucleosides rescued the replication stress and DNA damage, and dramatically decreased oncogene-induced transformation. Increased transcription of nucleotide biosynthesis genes, mediated by expressing the transcription factor c-Myc, increased the nucleotide pool and also rescued the replication-induced DNA damage. Our results suggest a model for early oncogenesis in which uncoordinated activation of factors regulating cell proliferation leads to insufficient nucleotides that fail to support normal replication and genome stability.

Makoto Kobayashi 

Nobel Laureate - Physics 2008
High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) 

and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)

 Development of Particle Physics

 Particle physics emerged around 1930 and experienced a revolutionary progress in  1970’s which evolved to the Standard Model of the elementary particles. In these developments, there were many important works both experimental and theoretical which stimulated the progress. The lecture will cover these subjects putting some emphasis on my own experience.

Roger Kornberg

Nobel Laureate - Chemistry 2006 
Stanford University

Bridge to the Future

Basic science is the best possible bridge to the future for all nations, great and small. Basic research in fields ranging from mathematics and physics to medicine is unique in its impact on society: it is the source of progress in the human condition, from our most primitive state to modern times; it is no less our hope of improvement in the future in all regards, technological, medical, and social; it is feasible on all scales and generally accessible; it is an agent of economic development; it is a force for human values; it is apolitical; and it is atheistic, in the best sense of the word.
Basic biomedical research provides a compelling example. The major advances in medicine have all come from the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. This pursuit depends on ideas, and so is international, cross-cultural, and ultimately individual. The exchange of ideas is key, and engenders cooperation and understanding. Remarkably, despite a general appreciation of these important lessons of history, they are often forgotten.

A Personal History

By good luck, I discovered my calling at about the age of many in this audience. A high school chemistry course made the difference. It was about the principles of chemistry, demonstrated through simple experiments. One of these experiments, concerning the rate of movement of molecules in a liquid, motivated the rest of my career. It became the object of my study in college and the basis of my graduate study and Ph.D. thesis, leading eventually to my current research.
Although I never received instructions from my teachers, and never followed in their footsteps, I benefited from their example. I followed a path that was my own, but which was illuminated by the great scientists who preceded me.
In the end I discovered what they had found before me, the joy of a life in science

Yuan T. Lee

Nobel Laureate - Chemistry

Academia Sinica, Taipei, Chinese Taipei

Dynamics of Chemical Reactions and Photochemical Processes

Every macroscopic chemical transformation, whether it is atmospheric ozone depletion or the burning of a candle, consists of millions of microscopic chemical events which involve collisions between molecules. It has been the dream of scientists

 for a long time to observe and understand the details of molecular collisions which transform reactant molecules into product molecules with our naked eyes. During the last several decades, because of the advances in crossed molecular beams method and laser technology, especially, from the measurements of product angular and velocity distributions, it has become possible to “visualize” exact details of how chemical reactions take place through molecular collisions or through photochemical processes.

     In this presentation, in addition to illustrate experimental details of molecular beams method, my personal experiences of engaging in the field of chemical dynamics during the last forty years will be included.

Science, Technology and Sustainable Development of Human Society

During the long history of mankind, the planet of earth used to be an infinitely large place. But after the industrial revolution and especially during the twentieth century things have changed dramatically. World population increased from 1.5 billion to 6 billion and the earth has shrunk in relative terms. This sudden transition from “unlimited earth” to “limited earth” has extremely significant consequences, yet the development of human society, moving along the track of infinity for a long time, has not seemed to be able to adapt to the new reality that the earth is “limited.”

On the “limited earth,” perhaps the most important challenges for scientists are problems related to the use of energy and the impact on our living environment. The “developed” countries’ patterns of growth obviously are not the ideal models for “not yet overdeveloped” countries to emulate. We need to find a new, sustainable way of development for entire human society on earth, paying special attention to harmonizing the relationship between humankind and nature.

We should all recognize the fact that the increasingly interconnected world cannot be a safe place if a large portion of its population still suffers from poverty, diseases, illiteracy, unemployment, and other barriers to survival. Scientists can play key roles in finding the solutions to these problems. Especially, if we learn to solve problems together, learn to share knowledge, new technological options and the limited resources available, learn to respect and understand different cultural heritages, then it will be possible to realize the establishment of a genuine global village that enables sustainable development for all.

This is the first time in human history that all human beings on earth have been faced with learning to work together and live together as one family in a global village. Our future depends entirely on how effectively the entire world would function as a community. This is a necessary awakening – vital for the survival and sustainable development of mankind.

Ron Lifshitz

School of Physics and Astronomy

Tel Aviv University

What is a crystal? - New answers to an old question

In 1982 Dan Shechtman discovered a new kind of crystal that seemed to contradict the laws of nature. His discovery -- for which he was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry -- ignited a scientific revolution that demonstrated that, in science, what may seem impossible today might turn out to be real tomorrow. We will review this scientific revolution and the many ways that it changed science.

Tsevi Mazeh

 Astronomy and Astrophysics Department, 

 and The  Sackler Institute for Astronomy, Tel Aviv University

 Extra-solar planets

Since Copernicus, when we realized that Earth is a planet that orbits the Sun, astronomers are trying to find planets around other stars. This has been quite difficult, because planets are extremely faint and are so distant. However, in the last fifteen years astronomer finally succeeded to discover planets around other stars, some of which are very different from those of the Solar system. We will review the new discoveries, including the very recent ones, which were found by two satellites that were launched to search for extra-solar planets.  

Eran Meshorer

Department of Genetics 

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Embryonic Stem Cells

Embryonic stem (ES) cells are derived from the developing embryo at the blastocyst stage. ES cells are the only cells which have the dual capacity to self-renew (divide) indefinitely, as well as to generate every cell type in the human body. As such, they hold great promise as tools to study differentiation and development, to model human diseases in the lab, and as potential therapeutic agents for the clinic for a variety of degenerative human diseases including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and many more. While ES cells involve some ethical concerns regarding the use of human embryos, recently, a new technology was developed, enabling the generation of ES-like cells (termed ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’ or ‘iPS cells’) from differentiated cells such as skin cells or blood cells and many other cell types. This revolutionary technology has the potential to generate patient-specific ES-like cells, avoiding the use of human embryos and the fear of immune rejection. The lecture will cover milestones in ES cell biology and recent discoveries in stem cell research, from cloning frogs to cloning mammals, the first isolation of mouse, and later human, ES cells, and the more recent advance in generating iPS cells by ‘reprogramming’. This technology will be demonstrated by introducing iPS cells which we prepared from skin cells of Huntington’s disease patients.

Yaacov Michlin

Yissum, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

From science to business:turning basic science into commercial success

Yissum is the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.It is responsible for marketing the inventions and know-how, generated by the University's renowned researchers and students. the presentation will be given by Yaacov Michlin, how joined Yissum in 2009 and serves as President and Chief Executive Officer.

Ran Nathan

Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior 

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Haim D. Rabinowitch

The Faculty of Agriculture,

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Sex, Life and Vegetables
or: When you are told that your research is heading to nowhere - that's a sign to continue


Re'em Sari

The Racah Institute of Physics 

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems

Less than twenty years ago, we only new of one example of a planetary system.Today, thousands of planets are known to orbit other stars. In parallel, exploration of our outer   solar system allows us to pick at pristine bodies, relics from the epoch of planet formation. Together with observation of disks of gas and dust around young stars, we have now information that enables better understanding of the processes involved in formation and evolution of planetary systems. These new findings spark our imagination, and mark the beginning of a journey for the search of life outside the solar system.

Idan Segev

The Hebrew University

The blue brain

Hermona Soreq

The Edmond and Lily Safra Center of Brain Science,

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Anxiety and the immune system
A recent report attributes to depression evolutionary contribution to pathogen-host defense, yet primarily cites early development examples and cholinergic signaling-related genes. In this lecture, we will examine the hypothesis that in post-reproductive and evolutionarily ‘blind’ years, depression may inversely weaken pathogen-host defense, compatible with the antagonistic pleiotropic hypothesis which predicts some inverse effects for certain genes. In 15,532 healthy volunteers where we tested this concept, inflammatory parameters associated with depression scores. Implicating debilitated cholinergic blockade of inflammation as an underlying mechanism, escalating depression scores further associated with increased circulation cholinesterase activities; furthermore, depression, inflammation and cholinesterase activities all increased with aging. Suggesting that cholinergic impairment precedes depression, metabolic syndrome patients with higher risk of diabetes showed increased cholinesterase levels, but not depression, whereas diabetics presented simultaneously increased depression, inflammation and cholinesterases. Also, in the entire cohort combined inflammation and the diabetic biomarker hemoglobinA1C associated with elevated depression. Our findings indicate that mal-functioning cholinergic regulation weakens the otherwise protective link between depression and pathogen-host defense, with global implications for aging-related diseases.

 MicroRNAs in the interface between inflammation and neurodegeneration

By targeting transcriptional or other regulator genes, microRNAs can affect neuron-glia and/or brain-to-body signaling, modifying cognitive states. Given that acetylcholine (ACh) suppresses both anxiety and inflammation, microRNAs could co-modulate neuronal and immune functions by silencing multiple and partially overlapping cholinergic target genes. For example, stress-inducible increases in microRNAs targeted to the 3'-untranslated region of the acetylcholinesterase (AChE) transcripts (e.g. miR-132,-125b) can elevate cholinergic signaling and limit cytokines production and brain penetration. This would attenuate the activation of cytokine-responding neurons, affect higher brain functions and resolve damages to neurotransmission, plasticity and cognitive reactions. Inversely, the sharp decline of miR-132 in the Alzheimer’s disease brain may associate with cognitive deterioration and explain the limited decrease in AChE in the diseased brain in spite of massive losses of cholinergic neurons. Correspondingly, we discovered miR-132 increases in both intestinal inflammation and post-stress anxiety, and observed anxiety and inflammation-associated changes in AChE-targeted miRs in peripheral human tissues and ischemic stroke model mice. These may become disease biomarkers and targets for therapeutic interference aimed at regaining homeostasis, yielding novel biomedical insights in the neuro-immune interface of neurodegenerative disease.

Ady Stern

 Condensed matter department

 Weizmann Institute of Science

 From quantum mechanics to nano-electronics

 In my talk I will outline the basic principle that defines quantum physics, the notion of a particle's   multitude of histories. I will then explain the circumstances at which this principle allows particles   to be in several places at the same time, and the circumstances where that may not happen. Finally, I will describe how these general notions may take part in shaping the future of electronics.

Eilon Vaadia 

The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Science (ELSC) 

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Brain–Machine Interface: How Computers Interact With the Brain

The brain is the command and control center of the nervous system. The enigma of the brain is one of the most challenging intellectual endeavors of the 21st century. With billions of neurons and thousands of kilometers of wiring fibers our brain is probably the most complex machine in the universe. Yet, scientific and technological advancement in recent years have made it
possible to begin addressing the principal questions regarding the brain’s computing and
learning processes.
Brain researchers can now follow how genes and molecules organize neurons as an electrochemically active brain tissue with many billions of interacting computing elements. 
My lecture will address the question why we need a brain, and discuss a theory to explain the principles of brain function. I will also describe a novel approach to brain research in which a computer interacts with the brain, deciphers the brain’s intention by reading its electrical signals and finally generates action, fulfilling the brain’s purpose. This is “Brain Machine Interface” (BMI). 
These BMI advancements can be used to create computer‐aided methods for treating devastating brain malfunctions such as paralysis, Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.

Marta Weinstock-Rosin

Pharmacology Department and Institute of Drug Research, 

the Hebrew University Medical School, Jerusalem

Adventures in drug discovery

In addition to a high frustration threshold, a drug developer needs to know chemistry, pharmacology, pathology biochemistry and physiology. Once a new compound has been synthesized and tested on target cells the results may not be what one expects or hopes for. It may be inactive when administered to experimental animals (a required step in drug development) and the project is usually abandoned. Occasionally, a compound turns out to be more active in vivo than one predicted from tests in isolated target cells, or it may act at different sites from those for which it was designed. My lecture will describe how we came to invent Exelon, a drug currently used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, even though we were trying to make one for combatting drug-induced respiratory depression. I will also relate the scientific adventures encountered during the development of another drug, ladostigil, which, in spite of its low activity on target cells, was found to be surprisingly active at a much lower doses on several systems other than those for which it was designed. This drug is now in clinical trials for the prevention of the neurodegenerative processes leading to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.