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The Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative (PNI) at Al-Quds University Hosts the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) Course in Neuroscience for the First Time in Palestine

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In collaboration with the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO), the Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative (PNI) at Al-Quds University hosted the first IBRO Course in Neuroscience to convene in Palestine between July 27th 2015 and August 4th 2015.  This accomplishment is yet another milestone in the PNI’s efforts for development of solid infrastructure for neuroscience research in Palestine.  Five lecturers from elite U.S. and European institutions visited Al-Quds University to deliver the course.


Lecturers and host of the IBRO Course in Neuroscience.  From left to right:  Prof. Arne Lekven (Texas A&M, USA), Prof. U. J. McMahan (Texas A&M, USA), Prof. Walter Stuehmer (Max-Planck Institute, Germany), Prof. Mathew Diamond (SISSA, Italy), Prof. Stephan Kröger (University of Munich, Germany), and Dr. Mohammad Herzallah (PNI, Al-Quds University, Palestine).


In the opening ceremony, Dr. Mohammad M. Herzallah (founder and director of the PNI and co-organizer of the IBRO course) welcomed the participants and highlighted the importance of the IBRO course in building neuroscience research capacity in Palestine under the umbrella of the PNI.  Dr. Herzallah acknowledged the significant interest in the course, with 250 applicants from all universities throughout the West Bank in Palestine.  Only 70 applicants were selected to participate in the course from Al-Quds University, An-Najah University, Arab American University in Jenin, Palestine Technical University-Kadoorie, Palestine Polytechnic University, Hebron University, Birzeit University, Bethlehem University, and various hospitals throughout Palestine.  Prof. U. J. McMahan (Professor of Neurobiology at Texas A&M University, USA and co-organizer of the IBRO course) introduced IBRO and its role in developing neuroscience in the world.  Further, Prof. McMahan introduced the course lecturers and explained how the course worked.  Lecturers were then welcomed by Prof. Imad Abu-Kishk, president of Al-Quds University, Prof. Hani Abdeen, dean of the Al-Quds School of Medicine, Prof. Akram Kharroubi, dean of the Faculty of Health Professions, and Prof. Adel Misk, head of the board of trustees of the PNI.


Visiting professors their lectures during the IBRO Course in Neuroscience at Al-Quds University.  Top left: Prof. U. J. McMahan (Texas A&M, USA); top middle: Prof. Arne Lekven (Texas A&M, USA); right: Prof. Walter Stuehmer (Max-Planck Institute, Germany); bottom left:  Prof. Mathew Diamond (SISSA, Italy); bottom middle: Prof. Stephan Kröger (University of Munich, Germany).


The course included 35 lectures on the basics of neuroscience and neurobiology and recent advances in the field.  In particular, the lectured covered topics in neural signaling, structure and function of synapses, ion channels and receptors, structural and functional organization of sensory systems, development of the central nervous system, neuronal degeneration and regeneration, and mechanisms of plasticity.

Following the morning session of lectures, smaller groups of students met with the lecturers to discuss various topics and ideas related to neuroscience, their background, and their future plans.  Finally, students were asked to start preparing a presentation of a research project or idea.  These tutorials continued over the full length of the course.

A group of IBRO Course students completing their tutorials on how to present a research project with Prof. Mathew Diamond.


During the evening of penultimate day of the course, the IBRO course group visited the area between Battir and Beit-Jala for a dinner and a short hike.


In the final day of the course, students delivered the presentations they prepared during the tutorials.  The presentations varied between basic research projects, clinical research projects, case reports, and epidemiological studies.


IBRO course students giving their presentations during the final day of the course.


After the morning presentation session, Dr. Herzallah presented an overview of the PNI, its establishment, current activities, and future goals.  He then presented one of the main research projects that are being conducted at the PNI:  the cognitive correlates of major depressive disorder and the administration of SSRI antidepressants.  This was followed by research presentations by PNI researchers to give the audience an idea about neuroscience research being conducted at PNI.


Dr. Herzallah (left side) and PNI researchers (right side) giving presentations about PNI research projects.

Finally, the lecturers gave a brief talk about pursuing graduate training in neuroscience in the U.S. and Europe.  Prof. McMahan thanked the PNI team and Al-Quds University for hosting a successful event.

The PNI aims to create a powerhouse of neuroscience research in Palestine, train the next generation of Palestinian researchers and health-care professionals, and create a viable research institution in Palestine to host Palestinian and other neuroscientists to pursue research careers in Palestine.  For more details, please visit:

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