In the Spotlight - Our New Researchers

Get to know the researchers who recently started working at the Edmond & Lily Safra Center

Dr. Yoav Adam:

Yoav’s academic career started at the Hebrew University. A student of the prestigious Psychobiology program, followed by Masters in Biochemistry with Shimon Schuldiner, and a PhD at ELSC with Adi Mizrahi. He then moved to Harvard University. At Harvard, Yoav completed his postdoctoral training in the team of Adam Cohen. There he developed state-of-the-art voltage indicators, optogenetic tools and advanced microscopes which he intends to use in his new lab. Yoav is particularly interested the hippocampus, famously involved in navigation through the existence of "place cells", neurons that encode spatial location. In his lab, he plans to image the electrical activity of hippocampal place cells in mice while they explore a new space in virtual reality. Applying the new techniques he developed at Harvard, he will investigate the underlying mechanism behind the formation of such place cells by modulating their inputs optogenetically. Although this question is old, answers are scarce. Yoav believes that the new existing technology will allow him to address this question from a fresh perspective. Namely, the newly developed techniques will allow him to study variations in the subthreshold membrane potential of neurons, a whole new realm that cannot be studied with classical methods. In the future, he would like to get at more clinically-relevant questions, related to memory impairments and neurodegeneration where the hippocampus is an important node.

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Yoav Adam
Credit: Yoram Aschheim


Dr. Lilach Avitan:

Lilach travelled around the world and neuroscience before arriving at ELSC. After studying computer science and statistics at Bar Ilan University, she completed her PhD in theoretical neuroscience under the supervision of Moshe Abeles. Then, she moved Down Under where she started working experimentally with larval zebrafish to explore the neural basis of behaviour. At ELSC Lilach intends to determine the chain of computations required from the moment a stimulus appears and through the time behaviour is selected and executed. The stereotyped sequence of movements performed by larval zebrafish hunting for prey is a great model to study these questions. Using sophisticated imaging techniques, primarily light sheet and two-photon microscopy, she is able to record the neural activity inside the fish brain while it virtually hunts. The remarkable ability to optically image the whole brain with single cell precision across large networks of neurons gives her access to the brain with unprecedented precision. Additionally, by studying such brain computations at different times along development, she will characterize how the brain develops its computational power with experience. Applying statistical methods, some of them home-made, her aims is to unravel information flow from stimulus to the action in the intact vertebrate brain

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Lilach Avitan
Credit: Nick Valmas


Dr. David Omer:    

David Omer completed his PhD at the Weizmann Institute studying vision in the lab of Amiram Grinvald. After a first Post-Doc with Nikos Logothetis at the Max Planck institute, he joined the lab of Nahum Ulanovsky at Weizmann to study the neural basis of social behavior in freely flying bats. Notably, he contributed to the surprising discovery of "social place cells" in the hippocampus: neurons that represent the location of other conspecifics. While the hippocampus is well known to play an important role in spatial navigation and memory (@ ELSC see Adam and Goshen labs), this recent finding reveals its potential role in social behaviors.

In his neurophysiology lab, Didi will use wireless technology to study the neural basis of complex social behaviors in freely moving and freely behaving animals. Very little is known about the involvement of the hippocampus in social behaviors and social neuropathologies. Didi is interested in studying whether the brain implements a cognitive map of "social space". One would expect such abstract space to contain information about kinship and/or hierarchy between individuals. Didi’s lab will shed light on neural representations of conspecifics in spatial, temporal and social dimensions, revealing some of the most hidden secrets of the mammalian brain.

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David Omer