A major highlight of Israeli President Shimon Peres’ recent visit to Bar-Ilan University was seeing firsthand the cutting-edge research work taking place at the Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, which has been generously supported by the Gonda Family through a gift to the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University (AFBIU).
Prof. Moshe Abeles, the founding Director of the Gonda Brain Center, told Peres that the Gonda Center’s distinct edge in brain research is due to its multidisciplinary approach. “We can’t solve the mysteries of the brain without cooperating with other disciplines,” said Abeles.
At the Center, Doctoral students Rani Barbara and Shira Baror fitted University President Daniel Hershkowitz with an EEG bonnet in order to demonstrate to Peres what can be learned from a person’s brain waves. Hershkowitz was asked to relax, open and close his eyes, visualize his earliest childhood memory, and imagine himself in the year 2024. Projected on a large screen, the brain waves formed a pattern that was analyzed by the students.
Later, Peres visited the laboratory of Dr. Eitan Okun, who leads a research team studying the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease and ischemic brain stroke, as well as the molecular mechanisms governing learning and memory processes during aging.
During his tour of Bar-Ilan, Peres visited the Gonda (Goldschmied) Nanotechnology Triplex – another major project funded by the Gonda Family through a generous gift to the AFBIU. It was his first visit to the Triplex since construction was completed four years ago. Institute Director Prof. Yuval Garini and Vice President for Research Prof. Benjamin Ehrenberg showed the President around this state-of-the-art, interdisciplinary facility.
Dr. Ido Bachelet, a returning scientist from MIT, discussed with Peres how the nano-robots he is developing from molecular DNA can help epileptics and people with diabetes, as well as how nano-robots can identify 12 types of cancer and kill cancer cells without affecting healthy cells. Bachelet has given three demonstrations to the US Food and Drug Administration, and is hoping to start clinical tests within a year. Bachelet told the President that he brings groups of teenagers to his lab as part of an initiative to teach them about the meaning of nanotechnology.
Peres made sure to meet with hundreds of Bar-Ilan students during the day. He participated in a question and answer session with them. His warm parting words were, “It is wonderful to see the amazing advancements in nanotechnology and brain research that have taken place at Bar-Ilan University since my last visit. I’m leaving here even more optimistic than I was before.”