Aims, Projects, and Publications
This research and educational initiative based at Al-Quds University encompasses programs in basic neuroscience, neurogenetics, neuropsychology, clinical neurology, psychiatry, and geriatrics. The initiative has five aims:
- Build infrastructure for neuroscience research in Palestine, based at Al-Quds Medical School, in cooperation with regional clinics and health care centers in Jerusalem, Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Jericho, Bethlehem, and Hebron.
- Augment research training for a new generation of Palestinian medical students and doctors, in cooperation with elite institutions worldwide.
- Support locally run research efforts to understand regionally-specific characteristics of brain disorders and mental illnesses in Palestine.
- Expand public understanding and tolerance for those suffering from neurological and psychiatric disorders.
- Promote life-style and behavioral choices that influence brain health and successful aging for all people.
- Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative Brochure
- The Palestinian Women’s Mental Health Initiative
- 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, M. M., Moustafa A. A., 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, A. A., S. Keri, et al. “A neural model of hippocampal-striatal interactions in associative learning and transfer generalization in various neurological and psychiatric patients.” Brain Cogn 74(2): 132-44. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20728258)
- Moustafa A. A., Herzallah M. M., et al. “Dissociating the nognitive 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 A. A., Gilbertson M. W. Orr S. P., Herzallah M. M., 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)