The France-Israel Center for Neural Computation

The France-Israel Center for Neural Computation (FICNC), a “laboratory without walls”, was created in 2004 to promote collaborative research in neuroscience between ELSC and three partner institutions in France: The National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS), Paris-Descartes University, and the University of Bordeaux.

FICNC is co-directed today by Prof. Israel Nelken (ELSC) and Dr. David Hansel (CNRS). It is supported by the CNRS, ELSC, the Medical and Heath National Research Institute (INSERM, France) as well as by grants from the French National Research Agency.

The research program of FICNC combines theory and experimentation. Current research topics include:

  1. Cortical processes underlying sensory information processing
  2. Neurobiological substrates of cognitive and memory representations
  3. Information-bounded rationality in learning and decision-making

Members of the FICNC have published over 30 articles in high-ranked scientific journals, and contribute to the training of a new generation of scientists in France and in Israel who continue to work in close cooperation.

In 2004, FICNC founded the France-Israel Neuroscience and Neurology Society to help organize binational neuroscience conferences, held alternatingly in France and Israel. Additionally, FICNC is strongly involved in NeuroBridges, a summer program that brings together young neuroscience researchers from France, Israel, and Arab and Muslim countries.

FICNC has become a powerful tool for scientific achievement, international cooperation, student training and career networking. FICNC will continue to strengthen the scientific links between ELSC and its partner institutions, and more generally between French and Israeli neuroscience researchers.

The Gatsby Program in Theoretical Neuroscience


The last two decades have witnessed the development and rapid growth of theoretical and computational neuroscience as a multidisciplinary field at the forefront of brain science. The field spans a broad range of activities, including development and application of new tools for analysis of experimental data about brain structure and function; mathematical modeling and computer simulations of the activity of neurons, synapses and neuronal networks; development of theories of coding and decoding of information in neuronal circuits; exploration of neural theories of cognitive functions; and modeling of mechanisms underlying brain dysfunction in neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Recent emergence of powerful neurotechnologies and the transformation of neuroscience into a data-rich field have created a high demand for theories, models and computational techniques. Revolutionary advances in artificial intelligence and deep learning algorithms provide a host of powerful new data-analysis and modeling tools for neuroscience, from the reconstruction of neural circuits using electron-microscopy imaging (connectomics) to the modeling of the layered structure of the fly retina.

In the 1990s, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation made a pioneering investment in theoretical and computational neuroscience, establishing the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit at University College London (UCL). In later years, the Foundation expanded the program by welcoming two more universities: Columbia University’s Center for Theoretical Neuroscience in New York, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s ELSC. Over the past ten years, the Foundation’s tri-center initiative has helped organize joint meetings, collaborative research, and student exchanges. It has also sponsored close collaborations between computational neuroscientists and their experimentalist counterparts, both within each center and between centers.

About the Program

The Gatsby Program in Theoretical Neuroscience at ELSC supports research in theoretical and computational neuroscience at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The Program endows doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships, and sponsors conferences and visitors. Preference is given to students and postdocs who perform collaborative research, mentored jointly by theoreticians and experimentalists. Another priority is sponsoring activities that strengthen the ties between the Jerusalem center and its two partner centers in London (UCL) and New York (Columbia University), including joint meetings, the exchange of researchers, and collaborative research.

Gatsby Fellows Program

In addition to regular postdoctoral fellowships, the Gatsby Program provides special fellowships for outstanding junior researchers at the senior postdoctoral level who working on theoretical and computational neuroscience at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Fellows are admitted to the Gatsby Program based on their credentials and are free to choose their research agenda and their host lab in the course of their term in residence. In addition to upgraded salaries and housing support, fellows receive research funds for travel to other labs or conferences. Fellows are expected to actively participate in initiatives that strengthen tri-center interactions.

For more information about the Gatsby Program, our research interests, and fellowship opportunities, please contact Haim Sompolinsky (Program Director) at or Michal Leci (Program Administrator) at


Collaborations with Forschungszentrum (FZ) Jülich, as of February 2019:

  • Neural substrates for logical operations – anatomico-functional convergences.

In this project, we localize logical operations in the human brain, and compare the loci we uncover to those that support language processing. To this end, use fMRI and histological techniques to look for convergence between micro-anatomical and functional parcelations of neural tissue in the human left frontal lobes.

Collaborators: Prof. Dr. Katrin Amunts and others at INM-1, FZ Jülich

  • Assistive tools for intra-operative language mapping in the awake neurosurgical patient.

Brain tumor resection operations are often performed on awake patients. That is, since brain tissue does not have nerves or pain sensors, patients can be awake during parts of surgery, and can assist the surgeon in creating an individualized functional map of their exposed cortical tissue. Such maps are important in that they provide the surgeon with concrete information about the functional role of brain parts that may have to be resected. Precision in characterizing their role is thus highly needed. In this project, we are developing new, more precise tools for anatomical and functional intra-operative mapping of the language regions of the human brain.

Collaborators: Prof. Dr. Katrin Amunts and others at INM-1, FZ Jülich, Prof. Dr. Michael Sabel, Prof. Dr. Marion Rapp, Prof. Dr. Marcel Kamp, Department of Neurosurgery, University of Düsseldorf.

  • Polarity in the aging brain.

In this project, we use behavioral and MR signal intensity measures in order to evaluate the effects of aging in highly specific cognitive processes. We explore the hypothesis that aging affects cognition in a highly selective manner, and that this selectivity can be measured both behaviorally and through fMRI.

Collaborators: Prof. Dr. Katrin Amunts, Prof Dr. Svenja Caspers, Prof. Dr. Stefan Heim, and others at INM-1, FZ Jülich

“Working memory”