Talma Hendler Prof. MD. PhD.
Full professor of psychology and psychiatry, Tel Aviv University
Founder and Director of the Tel Aviv Functional Brain Center
Prof.Talma Hendler leads an active research group composed of graduate students, post docs and medical students from Tel Aviv University. The lab's work focuses on characterizing brain mechanisms of individual emotional experience by using neuroimaging methodology including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalogram (EEG). This multi-modality approach provides a unique window into the living human brain, allowing investigations of the neural response dynamics and its regional distribution with the highest temporal and spatial resolution.
- Prof Hendler's lab is focused on
- Developing advanced analysis tools of brain signals obtained by high- spatial and temporal mapping approaches
Investigating brain structure and function in relation to healthy human affective behavior.
Characterizing the neural correlates of neuro-psychiatric pathological states.
Example for Research Areas and Projects
1. Investigating the spatio-temporal finger-prints of the individual emotional experience. In order to probe the individual emotional experience we employ music, movies and computerized games. We use these means for evoking emotion since they encompass complex temporal dynamics and cognitive associations [pdf elder]. In addition, games present on-line real-life like situations which can probe neural correlates of social affections and motivation [pdf kahn, assaf Michal], . This line of research is based on close cooperation with scholars from the humanities [musicology, cinema studies, film-directing, culture-studies, social science and economics] as well as on detailed dissection of behavioral responses which can feature the subjective emotional experience. The long-reaching goal of these studies is to advance the use of Brain-Computer interfaces for neuropsychiatric therapeutic interventions [pdf. zdhanov et al].
2. Characterizing the neural signature of individual emotional experience with real life stress. In a recent prospective functional-MRI (fMRI) study we examined a priori healthy individuals prior to their mandatory draft to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and a year later while serving in combat units as paramedics (Admon et al …pdf). The main finding of this project was that individuals who showed greater reactivity of the amygdala (a core region of the "emotional brain") exhibited more trauma-related symptoms following the stressful experience. This novel finding points to a possible use of fMRI to identify predisposing vulnerability to real life stress in humans. Furthermore, it implicates a neural marker for the need of early intervention following exposure to traumatic event, possibly reducing the likelihood for chronic psychopathology [pdf hendler 2003, hendler 2008].
3. Identifying early neural signs of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a devastating psychopathology of the young age. Using fMRI and DTI we examined abnormal neural manifestations in first-episode schizophrenia patients [pdf mendhlson, bleich pdf Hendler 2009 review in psychiatry].]. One finding of this approach was that patients have a diminished neural response to bizarre unpleasant facial expressions relative to controls (pdf Bleich…Hendler, Human Brain Mapping 2009). In a follow-up study we investigate in collaboration with beer Yaakov mental health center the dynamics of neural activation in response to the emergence of emotional experience while subjects watching movie clips or listening to music excerpts. In this ongoing study, unaffected siblings of schizophrenia patients are compared to their counterparts and to matched healthy individuals. We expect that some of the siblings will exhibit abnormal neural activation in response to the perceived emotional stimuli, which will predate a clinical onset of the disorder. Such early neural markers of schizophrenia can guide the development of preventive treatment approaches among individuals at high-risk for the disorder.
4. Revealing the neural dynamics of mental states. It is now well acknowledged that even while "resting" the brain shows complex patterns of modulated activity. Using simultaneous acquisition of EEG and fMRI signals we delineated distributed brain activity reflecting spontaneous modulations in the alpha rhythm (8-12HZ) during rest. It has been suggested that this rhythm is involved in the idle state of the brain; possibly a cognitive-affective maintenance resource of the brain. Intriguingly, the highlighted network nicely corresponds to previous work with fMRi showing widespread regions of deactivation during task (pdf Ben Simon…Hendler, PLoS One, 2009). We are currently examining whether patients suffering from high levels of mental distractibility, as e.g. in autism, attention deficit disorder and schizophrenia, will show abnormal modulation patterns in the alpha rhythm during rest. Another aspect of neural dynamics is examined with regard to hemispheric functional dominance and its implication to emotional and cognitive processing [2 pdf siman-tov]. It is assumed that inter-hemispheric communication is critical for effective large-scale brain processing such as attention and emotion [pdf Bleich et al 2009 asymmetry in schizo]. Lastly, we examine the neural correlates of internally generated processes such as intention and mind-wondering.