Overview, Projects, and Publications
The Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative (PNI) was establsihed in 2009 at Al-Quds University as a nucleus for a future Palestinian Neuroscience Institute. encompasses research and educational programs in cognitive neuroscience, molecular neuroscience, neurogenetics, neuropharmacology and neuropsychiatry.
The PNI has four main aims:
- Build infrastructure for neuroscience research in Palestine.
- Augment research training for a new generation of Palestinian students and researchers in cooperation with elite institutions worldwide.
- Conduct research to understand locally-specific characteristics of neurological and psychiatric disorders in Palestine.
- Raise public awareness of psychiatric and neurological disorders among Palestinians.
Since 2009, the PNI team has trained 70 Palestinian students and researchers; built research units for cognitive neuroscience, behavioral genetics, developmental neuroscience, and molecular neuroscience; engaged the collaboration of 25 local Palestinian neurologists and psychiatrists; established research referral and testing programs at mental health clinics throughout the West Bank; hosted 11 neuroscience colloquium talks and 3 mini-symposia whose speakers included several distinguished neuroscientists, including Nobel Laureates; received prestigious international awards and research grants; and published 12 neuroscience papers in international peer-reviewed journals, with many more papers in preparation.
Through the PNI we will create a viable research institution to host Palestinian and other neuroscientists to pursue research careers in Palestine.
- The Cognitive Correlates of Major Depressive Disorder and the Administration of SSRI Antidepressants
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is debilitating psychiatric disease, characterized by persistent low mood and significant loss of pleasure. It is estimated to affect 36% of Palestinians residing in the West Bank. Using state-of-the-art computer-based cognitive tasks, neuropsychological assessments and genotyping of dopamine and serotonin genes, we study the cognitive profile of patients with MDD upon diagnoses and after receiving SSRI antidepressants to dissociate the cognitive effects of MDD from those of SSRIs on cognitive function, and understand the interaction between the mood-elevating effect of SSRIs, dopamine/serotonin genotype and cognitive function.
- The Effects of Parkinson’s Disease and Dopaminergic Medications on Cognitive Function
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder, in which dopaminergic midbrain neurons decay. Using a battery of computer-based cognitive tasks, neuropsychological assessments, and dopamine gene polymorphisms, we study patients with PD on and off dopaminergic medications to investigate the interaction between PD, dopaminergic medication administration and dopamine gene polymorphism.
- The Effects of Naturally Occurring Variations in Dopamine and Serotonin Genes on Cognition in Healthy Subjects
The neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin have been implicated in various cognitive processes. In this project, we plan to conduct tests of learning and memory and obtain genetic samples from healthy adult subjects to determine which of several naturally occurring variations are present for dopamine and serotonin genes that have been implicated in learning and memory.
- Herzallah MM, Moustafa AA, et al. “Depression impairs learning whereas anticholinergics impair transfer generalization in Parkinson patients tested on dopaminergic medications.” Cogn Behav Neurol 23(2): 98-105.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20535058)
- Moustafa AA, Keri S, Herzallah MM, et al. “A neural model of hippocampal-striatal interactions in associative learning and transfer generalization in various neurological and psychiatric patients.” Brain Cogn. 2010 74(2): 132-44.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20728258)
- Moustafa AA, Herzallah MM, et al. “Dissociating the cognitive effects of levodopa versus dopamine agonists in a neurocomputational model of learning in Parkinson’s disease.” Neurodegener Dis. 2013;11(2):102-11.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23128796)
- Moustafa AA, Gilbertson MW, Orr SP, Herzallah MM, et al. “A model of amygdala-hippocampal-prefrontal interaction in fear conditioning and extinction in animals.” Brain Cogn. 2012 Nov 16;81(1):29-43.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23164732)
- Herzallah MM, Moustafa AA, Natsheh JY, Danoun OA, et al. “Depression impairs learning, whereas the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, paroxetine, impairs generalization in patients with Major Depressive Disorder.” J Affect Disord. 2013 Nov;151(2):484-92.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23953023)
- Herzallah MM, Moustafa AA, Natsheh JY, Abdellatif SM, et al. “Learning from negative feedback in patients with Major Depressive Disorder is attenuated by SSRI antidepressants.” Front Integr Neurosci. 2013 Sep 23;7:67.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24065894)
- Moustafa AA, Herzallah MM, Gluck MA. “A model of reversal learning and working memory in medicated and unmedicated Parkinson’s disease.” The Journal of Mathematical Psychology. 2014 Apr;59;120:131.(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022249613000813)
- Fera F, Passamonti L, Herzallah MM, Merys CE, Veltri P, Morganti G, Quattrone A, Gluck MA. “Hippocampal bold response during category learning predicts subsequent performance on transfer generalization.” Hum Brain Mapp. 2013 Oct 18. doi: 10.1002/hbm.22389.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24142480)
- Moustafa AA, Gluck MA, Herzallah MM, Myers CE. “The influence of trial order on learning from reward vs. punishment in a probabilistic categorization task: experimental and computational analyses.” Front Behav Neurosci. 2015 Jul 24;9:153. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00153. eCollection 2015(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26257616)
- Amir A, Lee SC, Headley DB, Herzallah MM, and Paré D. “Amygdala signaling during foraging in a hazardous environment.” J Neurosci. 2015 Sep 23;35(38):12994-3005. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0407-15.2015.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26400931)
- Natsheh JY, Shiflett, MW. “The Effects of Methylphenidate on Goal-directed Behavior in a Rat Model of ADHD.” Front Behav Neurosci. 2015 Nov 25;9:326. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00326. ECollection 2015.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26635568)
- Singh N, Sharpley AL, Emir UE, Masaki C, Herzallah MM, et al. “Effect of the Putative Lithium Mimetic Ebselen on Brain Myo-Inositol, Sleep, and Emotional Processing in Humans.” Neuropsychopharmacology. 2016 Jun;41(7):1768-78. doi: 10.1038/npp.2015.343. Epub 2015 Nov 23 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26593266)