The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation renews support to BSF for critical brain research


The human brain is highly complex, both structurally and functionally. In the past few years, scientists have devoted considerable effort to untangling the mysteries of the brain and uncovering the way it works.

Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert

Now, thanks to the renewed support of the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, who has just made its third generous gift to BSF through our Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation – BSF Multiplier Research Grants Program, over the next three years three promising partnerships between top scientists and researchers in Israel and in the United States will receive funding to explore various aspects of brain function and activity.

The Foundation was started by the late Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert, who were passionate philanthropists, inveterate art collectors and astute business people. Born and raised in England, the Gilberts immigrated to Los Angeles in 1949 and became successful real estate entrepreneurs. They committed their efforts to significant charitable endeavors in southern California and in the State of Israel.

“Among their many charitable endeavors, the Gilberts were very committed to education, economic development, and scientific research in Israel, as well as research programs at University of California, Berkeley and UCLA,” said Martin Blank, co-trustee of the Gilbert Foundation. “We are happy to support BSF, because BSF promotes potentially transformative partnerships between top scientists and researchers in Israel, and their counterparts in the United States. We know that, by connecting top scientists and researchers at UCLA and at UC Berkeley with talented scientists in Israel, we are continuing Rosalinde and Arthur’s commitment to making this world a better place, and to strengthening the bonds between Israel and the United States.”

Richard Ziman, co-trustee of the Gilbert Foundation, said that a major reason that the Gilbert Foundation continues its association is BSF’s rigorous method of qualifying scientific research.

“Because this gift will be spaced out over a period of three years, it will give the scientists involved with these projects ample time to delve into the areas they are studying,” Ziman said.

Understanding connections between the brain and human touch.

Renewed support from the Gilbert Foundation will help top scientists and researchers in Israel and in the United States to explore various aspects of brain function and activity.

When one person puts their arm around someone in distress, there is an obvious attempt to relieve the other person. This is an example of consolation. One of the projects funded by the Gilbert Foundation aims to establish a conceptual framework that examines, for the first time, the brain activity of two interacting individuals during consolation. Prof. Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory of University of Haifa, and Prof. Naomi Eisenberger of UCLA are the lead investigators.

“Using a pioneering neuroimaging technique, we plan to examine a new model according to which empathy related activations in the consoler predict physical and social pain alleviation in the consoled,” Shamay-Tsoory said.

Their findings could have far-reaching impacts in the neurosciences and social sciences. For example, the study could have groundbreaking implications for understanding how social touch can diminish levels of pain.

Identifying patients at risk of diseases due to brain injury.

One of the sobering realities of brain injuries is that they often make patients more susceptible to maladies such as epilepsy, depression and cognitive deterioration. Currently, there are no means to identify patients at-risk, or to prevent injury-related neurocognitive complications resulting from brain injury. Prof. Alon Friedman of Ben Gurion University and Prof. Daniela Kaufer of UC Berkeley hope to change that.

From previous BSF-funded research, Friedman and Kaufer discovered a specific signaling pathway within the brain that is triggered by the leak of albumin from the blood into brain. It is this leakage that initiates further brain-related illnesses.

Now, thanks in part to funding from the Gilbert Foundation, Friedman and Kaufer hope to discover diagnostic imaging methods that can identify albumin leakage in the brain, and test if new therapeutic approaches can be used to block it.

“Our research could offer new insights into the mechanisms underlying brain injuries and contribute to development of new strategies for diagnosis and prevention of injury-related complications,” said Friedman.

Shedding light on studying neurons.

A crucial component of the brain, neurons (or nerve cells) are responsible for processing, transmitting and storing information in the brain. When neurons malfunction, serious illnesses can occur.

Now, when studying and measuring neuronal activity, doctors rely on high-energy ultraviolet (UV) light. However, this light can cause extensive damage to living systems.

However, a promising partnership between Roy Weinstain of Tel Aviv University and Evan W. Miller of UC Berkeley, focuses on new chemical tools for manipulating and measuring neuronal activity with visible light.

“We’re developing alternative techniques that enable control and direct monitoring of neurons activity in real-time using exclusively non-harmful, low-energy, visible light,” said Miller.

They will use their funding from the Gilbert Foundation to develop such techniques, which they hope will significantly improve scientists’ ability to conduct neurobiological research with high precision, and without fear of damaging their research specimen or organism.

“We expect that the techniques we’re developing will find wide utility in the neuroscience research community and beyond, supporting not only our own research, but also that of many others in the field,” Weinstain said.

Thanks to the generosity of the Gilbert Foundation, these scientific teams will have the resources needed to continue their unique quests to better understand the human brain. As part of the BSF Multiplier Research Grants Program, their progress will be closely monitored over the next three years. Their outcomes could very well influence the study and treatment of brain functions for years to come.