On October 29, 2019, Weizmann Canada hosted Dr. Ofer Yizhar of the Weizmann Institute’s Department of Neurobiology at The Petroleum Club.
Local chapter members and donors heard about his work on unraveling the mysteries of the prefrontal cortex – a brain region that contributes to many higher brain functions, including language, working memory, emotional regulation, and goal-directed behaviour.
To investigate the physiology of neural circuits, he uses optogenetics, a tool that allows the investigation of neuron functions.
Dr. Yizhar played a pivotal role in the development of many of the optogenetic tools being used worldwide today for brain research. The work allows precise control over the activity of defined elements within the neural circuit. In this way, Dr. Yizhar can learn about the function of a neural circuit and establish causal links between patterns of circuit activity and animal behavior.
He uses this method to test hypotheses regarding circuit dysfunction associated with autism and schizophrenia, and his research has implications for the study and treatment of brain-related diseases including these conditions, mood and anxiety disorders, epilepsy, and beyond.