News from the Hebrew U
Professor Menachem Ben-Sasson elected President of Hebrew University; Hebrew U. researchers shed light on the brain mechanism responsible for processing of speech
Professor Menachem Ben-Sasson elected President of the Hebrew University
Professor Menachem Ben-Sasson, a former Rector of the Hebrew University, has been appointed President of the University. The election came at the closing session of the 72nd meeting of the University's Board of Governors held last month. Professor Ben-Sasson replaces Professor Menachem Magidor, who has served as President for the past twelve years.
Following the election, Professor Ben-Sasson said: “These are difficult times. Our planet is not as it was. Economic uncertainty and the worldwide financial crisis affect many areas of activity. The academic arena is varied and competitive. The public standing of higher education is in great need of improvement.”
He added: “We must change our organizational and managerial structure and make the institution’s corporate governance as transparent as possible. We must change and become more open to the public by means of involvement (and commitment) in the community, in the media, in broad cultural discourse, and in ties with the Israeli economy and society. We must change in our relationship to our potential students – recruiting the best in Israel and abroad, courting them, drawing them closer to us and enabling them to get the best out of education.”
Ben-Sasson, a professor of the history of the Jewish people at the Hebrew University, was born in 1951 in Jerusalem. In 1982, after completing his doctorate at the Hebrew University, he did post-graduate research at Cambridge University. Upon his return to Israel, he was appointed to the faculty of the Hebrew University and from 1997-2001 he served as rector of the university.
Ben-Sasson served from 2006-2009 as a member of the Knesset, representing the Kadima Party, and as chairman of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. Also during that term he headed the Knesset lobby for higher education.
Hebrew U. researchers shed light on the brain mechanism responsible for processing of speech
Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have succeeded for the first time in devising a model that describes and identifies a basic cellular mechanism that enables networks of neurons to efficiently decode speech in changing conditions.
The research may lead to the upgrading of computer algorithms for faster and more precise speech recognition as well as to the development of innovative treatments for auditory problems among adults and young people.
Our brain has the capability to process speech and other complex auditory stimuli and to make sense of them, even when the sound signals reach our ears in a slowed, accelerated or distorted manner.
However, the neuronal mechanisms that enable our brain to perceive a word correctly, for example, that is pronounced in different ways by different speakers or to understand a heavy accent, was a mystery to scientists until now.
Research associate Dr. Robert Gütig and Prof. Haim Sompolinsky of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at the Hebrew University have succeeded in describing a cellular process by which sensory neurons in the brain can automatically adjust their perceptual clocks and thus correct large temporal variations in the rate of sounds and speech that arrive from the environment.
According to their findings, which were recently published in the PLoS Biology journal, the bio-physical mechanism that exists in our brain enables single nerve cells in the cerebral cortex to perform word identification tasks almost perfectly.
The understanding of the process of speech decoding and the possibilities of its implementation in technology – by the development of neural network algorithms for the identification and processing of various patterns of sound signals – could lead to the significant upgrading of speech recognition technology in communications and computing, for instance in telephone voice dialing or in voice and sound monitoring devices.
The technology has been patented by Yissum, the Hebrew University's technology transfer company.
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