At the Leslie and Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Centre at Bar-Ilan University, researchers of multiple disciplines are working together to understand the brain. Coming from various fields, including psychology, physics, linguistics, computing and biology, they are studying the brain at all levels — from behaviour and cognitive processing through detailed mechanisms of information processing in neural circuits, to the analysis of vital molecules within nerve cells.
The goal? Breakthroughs that benefit society.
The new Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree Programme in Brain and Data Science exemplifies this. Known as NeuroData, this is a pioneering, innovative MSc in Brain and Data Science set to create impact through its graduates well-versed in multidisciplinary research and educational innovation. Graduates are ready to tackle the most complex problems faced by the human race: the human mind and brain in health and disease
A perfect example is Tal Dalal. He has completed an MSc in the university’s neuroscience programme — what NeuroData is based on — and is now pursuing his PhD. Working in the laboratory of Prof. Rafi Haddad, of the Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Centre, he and his team altered the level of synchronisation in the area of the brain that transmits information. Then, they explored how this affected the transfer of information and how the area of the brain that received the information understood it.
They found that when thousands of neurons are synchronised, the transmission of information in the brain is done more powerfully and reliably. When the activity is asynchronous and each neuron operates independently regardless of the group, the transmission is weaker. Picture a demonstration of tens of thousands of people in a public square compared to demonstrators scattered in different places. The former produces more immense power.
This research adds more insight into diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. “To date, studies have shown a correlation between decreased synchronicity and neurodegenerative disease, but haven’t shown why and how it happens,” says Dalal. “In our study, we’ve shown how synchronisation contributes to the transmission and processing of information in the brain, and this may be the reason why we eventually see cognitive impairment in patients.”
Dalal’s success is built on the back of his university’s holistic approach to education. Not only do students forge new mindsets, they are increasing individual contributions to a knowledge-based economy and society. More importantly, they expand the possibilities for ground-breaking, cutting-edge discoveries.
The new NeuroData programme follows this approach. It has an integrated multidisciplinary brain and data science curriculum that will cultivate researchers with in-depth knowledge in both fields.
It starts with a recognising that everything is connected in today’s modern world. Demand is fast rising for brain and date expertise that span neurotech, technological innovation, healthcare, education, and many other fields.
By fusing neuroscience and data science, researchers get the best of both worlds and boost their careers two-fold. They know how to analyse vast amounts of data and have specialised training in neuroscience to gain perspective that influences the quality and depth of their insights.
“The importance of combining two such innovative fields of study cannot be overestimated,” says Prof. Alon Korngreen, Head of BIU’s Multidisciplinary Brain Research Centre. “Modern neuroscience has reached a point where progress requires analysing vast amounts of data, a skill not traditionally provided to neuroscientists,”
“At the same time, data scientists lack specialised training in neuroscience and as a result, are missing a significant perspective that influences the quality and depth of their insights.”
During the first year, all students build a solid foundation in neuroscience and neuroscience-orientated data science. In the second year, they choose one of the neuroscience and data science sub-tracks at one of the consortium’s partner institutions and complete a research thesis.
The NeuroData programme is a collaboration between six leading universities in Israel and Europe: Bar-Ilan University in Israel, Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon, in Portugal, University of Jyväskylä in Finland, University of Padua (Padova) in Italy, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in The Netherlands, and University of Zagreb in Croatia.
Upon completion, students will receive a double master’s degree from two of the partner universities, depending on the choice of study track.
“Students will study in two or more partner universities over two years,” says Prof. Korngreen. “In addition, most of them will have internships in companies or other organisations to gain practical experience, which will add to their education.”
To learn more about how the NeuroData programme combines knowledge, skills, expertise, and the ability to drive change, click here.
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