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May 29, 2016 / 21 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Tel Aviv University’

Video Games Can Help in Stroke Rehab, Says Israeli Research

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Common interactive video games may be  an affordable and effective alternative to traditional therapy for stroke victims, says Tel Aviv University’s Medical School Dr. Debbie Rand.

patients undergo hours of rehabilitation after a stroke to restore movement, speech, and overall functionality, but many still return home without the ability to perform daily tasks, such as dressing, cooking or driving.

Dr. Rand’s recent study, in collaboration with a team from Sheba Medical Center, found that people recovering from stroke who use video games as a therapeutic method are more physically active during rehabilitation sessions, making more movements overall than those who experience traditional motor therapy.

Interactive game consoles require players to move continuously to interact with the virtual games, Dr. Rand explains. In her study, not only did the players perform double the number of arm movements during each session compared to patients in traditional therapy, but all of their movements also were purposeful or “goal-directed” and not just repetitive exercises.

When individuals plan their movements and move deliberately in order to accomplish a specific goal, it is likely to have a positive impact on brain plasticity — changes in the brain that are crucial for recovery from brain damage caused by stroke, Dr. Rand notes.

Players’ movements require precision and balance, and there is a cognitive benefit in that video games require strategy and planning. The individuals are motivated and enjoy the activity, making it  more likely that they will continue the treatment regime long-term, she believes.

She tested the effectiveness of interactive video games compared to traditional therapy comparing individuals who had experienced a stroke one to seven years before the study began. They  were randomly assigned to one of two groups of 20 participants each — a traditional therapy group, who completed traditional rehabilitation exercises, and a video games group which played video games using Xbox Kinect, Sony PlayStation and Nintendo Wii gaming consoles. Each group received two sessions a week with occupational therapists for a period of three months.

Although both groups showed improvement in functions such as grip strength of their weaker and stronger hands and gait speed, participants in the video games group continued to improve their grip strength for three months following the intervention, while the traditional group did not.

Beyond the physical advantages, Dr. Rand believes that video games could be an excellent alternative to traditional therapy simply because they’re more fun. In the video game group, 92 percent of participants reported enjoying the experience “extremely” or “very much,” opposed to 72 percent of the traditional group.

If patients are enjoying the therapy experience, it’s more likely that they will adhere to the therapy regime long-term, noting that game consoles are now widely available and fairly inexpensive. Participants who were in the video game playing group reported: “It was lots of fun,” “it stimulated all of my senses,” and “I finished the sessions wet from sweat, which proves that I really worked hard.”

The group environment also contributed to the success of the therapy, Dr. Rand says. Often, individuals with stroke are isolated and don’t have a very active social life. This program allowed them to connect with people like themselves, and encourage and support one another’s efforts.

In future studies, she intends to investigate whether these interactive video games will be as effective if they are used independently by patients at home to keep up activity levels — a crucial element of rehabilitation following a stroke.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Jewish Scientists: Block Memory of Alcohol Use and Cure the Habit?

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Research teams headed by a Hebrew University graduate and Tel Aviv University researchers have suggested that an experiment on rats showed that blocking their memory of alcohol use helped them break the habit.

Memories of addiction often cause drinkers to return to their habit when they are aroused by the smell of alcohol, creating pattern difficult to break.

Dorit Ron, a neuroscientist at the University of California at San Francisco and a graduate of Hebrew University, led her team’s research that disrupted memories of rats that had been exposed to alcohol.

The scientists, along with a team from Tel Aviv University, identified a potential molecular target in the brains of rats that might be able to be used to help cure alcoholics.

Their study, published this week in Nature Neuroscience4, explained that rats became problem drinkers after spending seven weeks exposed to a choice of water or a mixture of water and 20% alcohol.

Ron said, “It’s pretty amazing. Over time, you can see they develop a strong preference for alcohol.”

The researchers then took the alcohol away from the rodents, but then gave them a drop a day of a liquid that had a slight taste and odor of alcohol. The rats that also received a drug to inhibit memory showed a lesser tendency to go back to the booze.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Tel Aviv U Researcher Says Marijuana Can Halt Brain Damage

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Extremely low doses of marijuana’s psychoactive component can protect the brain before and after injury, according to Tel Aviv University Prof. Yosef Sarne.

Medical cannabis is often used by sufferers of chronic ailments, including cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder, to combat pain, insomnia, lack of appetite, and other symptoms but has not been  identified as being able to prevent damage to the body.

Prof. Sarne of the Adelson Center for the Biology of Addictive Diseases says that the drug has neuroprotective qualities and that extremely low doses of THC –  the psychoactive component of marijuana – protects the brain from long-term cognitive damage in the wake of injury from lack of oxygen, seizures, or toxic drugs. Brain damage can have consequences ranging from mild cognitive deficits to severe neurological damage.

Previous studies focused on injecting high doses of THC within a very short time frame of approximately 30 minutes  before or after injury. Prof. Sarne’s current research, published in the journals Behavioural Brain Research and Experimental Brain Research, demonstrates that even extremely low doses of THC around 1,000 to 10,000 times less than that in a conventional marijuana cigarette and administered over a wide window of up to seven days before or one to three days after injury can jumpstart biochemical processes which protect brain cells and preserve cognitive function over time.

This treatment, especially in light of the long time frame for administration and the low dosage, could be applicable to many cases of brain injury and be safer over time, Prof. Sarne says.

In the lab, the researchers injected mice with a single low dose of THC either before or after exposing them to brain trauma. A control group of mice sustained brain injury but did not receive the THC treatment. When the mice were examined three to seven weeks after initial injury, recipients of the THC treatment performed better in behavioral tests measuring learning and memory. Additionally, biochemical studies showed heightened amounts of neuroprotective chemicals in the treatment group compared to the control group.

The use of THC can prevent long-term cognitive damage that results from brain injury, the researchers conclude. One explanation for this effect is pre- and post-conditioning, whereby the drug causes minute damage to the brain to build resistance and trigger protective measures in the face of much more severe injury, explains Prof. Sarne. The low dosage of THC is crucial to initiating this process without causing too much initial damage.

According to Prof. Sarne, there are several practical benefits to this treatment plan.

Due to the long therapeutic time window, this treatment can be used not only to treat injury after the fact, but also to prevent injury that might occur in the future.

For example, cardiopulmonary heart-lung machines used in open heart surgery carry the risk of interrupting the blood supply to the brain, and the drug can be delivered beforehand as a preventive measure. In addition, the low dosage makes it safe for regular use in patients at constant risk of brain injury, such as epileptics or people at a high risk of heart attack.

Prof. Sarne is now working in collaboration with Prof. Edith Hochhauser of the Rabin Medical Center to test the ability of low doses of THC to prevent damage to the heart.

Preliminary results indicate that they will find the same protective phenomenon in relation to cardiac ischemia, in which the heart muscle receives insufficient blood flow.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Three Jews from US and France to Be Awarded Dan David Prize

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

The international Dan David Prize will be awarded  June 9 at Tel Aviv University to an American Jewish philosopher, a research doctor at Johns Hopkins and a French economist.

The Dan David Prize awards three $1 million to individuals with proven exceptional excellence in the sciences, arts, humanities, public service and entrepreneurship that have made an outstanding contribution to humanity.

Leon Wieseltier, American intellectual and philosopher and Literary Editor of The New Republic, will be given the award in the in the present time dimension category of Ideas, Public Intellectuals and Contemporary Philosophers.

Dr. Alfred Sommer of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health, who is known for his striking discovery in demonstrating that vitamin A has the power to save children’s lives, won the prize in the future time dimension field of Preventive Medicine.

Also in the future time dimension, and the only woman to win the prize this year, is French Economist Esther Duflo, whose research focuses on microeconomic issues in developing countries, including household behavior, education, access to finance, health and policy evaluation.

She was recently appointed by President Obama to the President’s Global Development Council.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Israel Haters Around the World, Unite!

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

While there has been an outpouring of individual support, and a trickle of international support (from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany) for Israel’s self-defensive operation, “Amud Anon” or as it is called in English, Pillar of Defense, not everyone is supportive.

Many Jewish day school students in the U.S. and around the world today wore either red, or blue and white to show support for Israel.  Still, there are those who are determined to cast Israel as the aggressor.

For example, at the University of California, Los Angeles, students are being urged to wear black, in solidarity with their “brethren” in Gaza. From 11:30 am – 1:00 pm PST, there will be an Emergency Rally for Gaza in Meyerhoff Park.

Wednesday evening, hundreds of Turks crowded into a square in Istanbul City to protest Israel’s military response to the hundreds of rockets fired at her citizens from Gaza.  The chair of the Turkish “relief foundation,” IHH,  Fehmi Bulent Yildirim, said that the Islamic world is in “extreme anger over the Israeli attack on Gaza” and praised Egypt for withdrawing its ambassador to Israel.  Yildirim called on the Turkish government to throw out Israel’s Ambassador to Ankara.

There are some rallies of support being organized by pro-Israel groups.  At least two are planned for today, in New York City, 5:00 pm ET today, Support Israel’s Right to defend her children! 42nd & 2nd Ave in front of the Israeli Consulate, and one was held this morning outside of TKTS, “Tehilim in the Square in Support of Israel! Duffy Square in New York, New York.

At the University of Florida, Gainesville, nearly 100 people showed up at noon today to sing HaTikva and show support.  A rally is scheduled for tonight in Toronto, outside the Consulate, 180 Bloor Street, West, and one on Friday at noon, in Philadelphia, on the Southwest corner of 19th Street and JFK Boulevard. In a Philadelphia suburb tonight, the Modern Orthodox Lower Merion Synagogue invited the local Israeli Consul General to give them an update on the war, and congregants will be saying tehillim there, for klal Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael.

ALL OF THE FOLLOWING ARE ANTI-ISRAEL DEMONSTRATIONS PLANNED TO DEMONIZE ISRAEL. Cities and as much identifying information as is currently available is provided, as are times and, in many cases, links to the hosts.

THURSDAY, 15 November

Alexandria (Egypt) Qaid Ibrahim, 12:00 p.m. Amsterdam (Holland)  Zuidelijke Wandelweg 41, 6:45 p.m. [link]

Ann Arbor (USA)  Campus Diag, in front of Hatcher Graduate Library, 3:00 p.m. [link]

Austin (USA)  I-35 and 12th Street (overpass), 2:00 p.m. [link] Atlanta (USA)

Israeli Consulate, 4 p.m. [link] Beirut (Lebanon)

Cola, 10:00 a.m. Belfast (Ireland)  City Hall, 7:00 p.m.

Boston (USA) 4:30 p.m., Copley Square [link]

Bradford (UK) | 4.30 p.m. [link]

Brighton (UK) | Outside EcoStream HQ, 12:00 p.m. [twitter]

Brighton (UK) | Victoria Gardens, 5:30 p.m. [link]

Cairo (Egypt) | Omar Makram, 12:30 p.m.

Cairo (Egypt) | Arab League, 4:00 p.m.

Chicago (USA) | Outside Obama HQ, 130 E Randolph Street, 4:00 p.m. [link]

Cork (Ireland) | Daunt sq 6:00 p.m. [link]

Dublin (Ireland) | Israeli Embassy, 5:30 p.m.

Durham (UK) | Market sq, 4:00 p.m. [link]

Florence (Italy) | Piazza della Repubblica (flash mob), 6:00 p.m. [link]

George Mason University (USA) | The North Plaza, 1:30 p.m. [link]

Glasgow (Scotland) | Ahl al Bayt Centre, 6 p.m. [link]

Haifa | Karma House, 7:00 p.m. [link]

Jerusalem | Outside Hebrew University, 12:00 p.m. L’Aquila (Italy) | Fontana Luminosa, 6:30 p.m. [link]

Leeds (UK) | Parkinson Steps, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT, 1:00 p.m. [link]

London (UK) | Israeli Embassy, 5:30 p.m. [link]

Los Angeles (USA) | UCLA, Meyerhoff Park, 11:30 a.m. [link]

Los Angeles (USA) | Israeli Consulate, 11766 Wilshire Boulvard, 4:00 p.m. [link] [link]

Manchester (UK) | Piccadilly Gardens, 5:00 p.m. [link]

Memphis (USA) | Poplar and Highland, 5:00 p.m. [link]

Mexico City (Mexico) | Israeli Embassy, 4:00 p.m.

Montreal (Canada) | Hall Building, Concordia University, 5:00 p.m. Nashville (USA) | Centennial Park, 3:00 pm [link]

Nazareth  | Kassarat Crossroad, 6:30 p.m. [link]

New York (USA) | Israeli Consulate, 42nd Street & 2nd Ave, 5:00 p.m. [link]

Nottingham (UK)| Nottingham Market Square, 5:30 p.m. [link]

Olympia (USA) | Red Square at Evergreen State College, 12:00 p.m. [link]

Ontario (Canada) | University of Windsor, CAW Student Centre, 12:00 p.m. Oxford (UK)  | Cornmarket Street, 4:00 p.m. [link]

Paris (France) | Ministry of Justice, 6:00 p.m. [link]

Princeton (USA) | Princeton University, outside of Frist Campus Center, 12:30 p.m.

San Diego (USA) | US Federal Building, 880 Front Street, 4:30 p.m. [link]

San Francisco (USA) | Israeli Consulate, 5:15 p.m. [link]

Santiago (Chile) | Croatian Stadium (Vitacura 8049) to Israel Stadium, 8:00 p.m. [link]

Seattle (USA) | Henry Jackson Federal Building, 915 2nd Avenue, 4:00 p.m. [link]

Sydney (Australia) | Parmatta Town Hall, 6:00 p.m. [link]

Tel Aviv | Main Entrance, Tel Aviv University 11:30 a.m. [link]

Toronto (Canada) | Israeli Consulate, 180 Bloor Street (E. of St. George TTC), 6:00 p.m.

Tunis (Tunisia) | In front of the National Theatre, 11:00 a.m.

Tunis (Tunisia) | Front of all Trade Association Buildings (Sa7et Mohamed Ali) 1:00 p.m.

Vancouver (Canada) | The Art Gallery, Hornby and Robson Streets, 5:00 p.m. [link]

Washington D.C. (USA) | March from State Department, 6:00 p.m. [link]

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Broader Lessons from Genetic Studies of the Ashkenazi Jewish Population

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the influential paper published by a Mount Sinai physician, Dr. Burrill Crohn, and his colleagues that for the first time characterized a disease associated with severe inflammation of the intestine. Patients with what was later named Crohn’s disease develop diarrhea, fever, stomach pain, and often lose weight. Crohn’s is now classified as an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks its own healthy tissue in the gastrointestinal tract, causing chronic inflammation. It affects young individuals, and, even though it is not curable, it can be treated and controlled by medications and surgery.

Epidemiology and origination of Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s is considered to be a complex disease with both genetic and environmental risk factors. There is extensive evidence to support the role of genetics in the development of Crohn’s disease. Having a relative with Crohn’s disease is the greatest risk factor for other family members. Also, studies of twins have shown that identical twins, who share almost 100% of their genetic information, were more likely to both have the disease than fraternal twins.  The differences in the prevalence of Crohn’s in various racial and ethnic groups further indicate that genetic factors contribute to the risk, even though shared cultural factors, such as diet and lifestyle, might also explain these differences. Specifically, the prevalence of Crohn’s disease in European countries ranges between 1 and 12 per 100,000 individuals, whereas this disease was until recently virtually unknown in the developing countries.

The major genetic risk for Crohn’s disease identified so far is conferred by 3 rare mutations in the NOD2 gene. NOD2 plays an important role in the immune system, as it enables immune cells to recognize bacterial molecules and stimulates an immune reaction. While the frequency of these mutations ranges between 1% and 4.5% in the general population, about 40% of Crohn’s disease patients carry at least one copy. This translates to a 2 to 4-fold risk of developing the disease in carriers of one copy and a 10 to 40-fold risk in those who carry multiple copies of these mutations. Recent advances in the field of genetics have allowed identification of an additional 160 genetic variants associated with Crohn’s disease in individuals of European ancestry. However,  a sharp increase in the occurrence of the disease in children of immigrants from the developing countries who move to Western countries, as well as the well- established effect of smoking on Crohn’s disease risk, suggest a prominent role for environmental factors as well, most likely diet and lifestyle.

Crohn’s Disease in the Ashkenazi Jewish Population

Interestingly, Jews of European descent (Ashkenazim) have a 4 to 7-fold increased risk of developing Crohn’s disease compared to non-Jewish Europeans. Genetic risks alone could not explain why the prevalence of Crohn’s disease is so much higher in Ashkenazim than in surrounding populations. To investigate this phenomenon, researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine have recently conducted the largest study which compared 1,878 Ashkenazi Jews with Crohn’s disease to 4,469 Jews without the disease, using DNA samples to evaluate their genetic make-up. They discovered five new genetic risk regions associated with Crohn’s disease in Ashkenazim. Armed with this new information, they can begin to pinpoint additional causal genetic mutations, discover the nature of the malfunctions they create,  and hopefully eventually develop new treatment approaches. That study also demonstrates the value of genetic studies in isolated populations, like Ashkenazi Jews.

 

The Role of Commensal Bacteria in Crohn’s Disease Risk

One possible explanation for the origination of Crohn’s disease is the hygiene hypothesis which suggests that a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents causes the immune system to wrongfully recognize its own non-pathogenic microorganisms as imminent risks and to act against them, causing substantial damage. This notion is particularly interesting in light of accumulating evidence suggesting that the identity and relative abundance of members of bacterial communities, or microbiota, normally residing in the human body and referred to as “commensal”, or non-harmful, bacteria, can be associated with different disease states. Microbial cells that live on (skin, eyes) and inside the human body (digestive system) may outnumber the quantity of human cells by 10-fold. This means that we may be carrying more bacterial genes than our own. Some commensal bacteria are essential for our health and provide a wide range of metabolic functions that the human body lacks. They help break down, absorb and store nutrients that otherwise cannot be digested, fight pathogenic bacteria, and play an important role in the development of the immune system.

Dr. Inga Peters

$100,000 in Gold Found in Israel Crusader Fortress

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

One of the largest-ever gold caches located in Israel was discovered by Tel Aviv University and the Nature and Parks Authority in a dig in the Apollonia National Park near Herzliya.

400 grams of gold – 108 gold coins minted around the year 1,000 in Egypt and valued at over $100,000 – was found last week in  by a TAU student in a potsherd under the tiles of one room of a Crusader fortress conquered by the Mamluks.

The find is part of a three-year excavation in which hundreds of arrow heads and catapult stones have been found, evidence of the mighty battle between the Crusaders and the Mamluks.

Rare glass utensils and Italian shards have also been found.

The coastal fortress and adjacent city were part of the Knights Hospitaller’s most important strongholds.  In 1265, Mamluk Sultan Baybars attacked the city and captured it in a 40 day siege.

Researchers believe the gold was hidden by a Crusader leader, in hopes that the fortress would be ultimately be retaken from the Muslim invaders and the treasure restored to its Christian owners.

Malkah Fleisher

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