Sagol Center for Brain and Mind
The Sagol Center for Brain and Mind is a unique research center operating at the School of Psychology at the IDC Herzeliya, which was founded and is run by Dr. Nava Levit Binnun.
The driving force for the founding of the center was the realization that professional, public and political decisions bearing a crucial and long-term influence on brain development and functioning and on physical and mental well-being both at the individual and at the societal level ignore the ample knowledge accrued over the past years about brain functioning and human psychology, and are sometimes even opposed to good practices derived from this knowledge.
The Sagol Center, being a neuroscience research institute, has unique knowledge and expertise which are absent in other organizations working with the community. Our team members are active neuroscientists and highly sought after public speakers. We specialize in translating research findings in the field of neuroscience into a common language which is accessible to non-scientists and in implementing these findings in educational and therapeutic settings.
Currently, our two main areas of activity are brain research and neuroeducation.
The Sagol Center researches characteristics which promote physical and mental well-being. We are focusing on the following characteristics: brain resilience, interpersonal interaction and self-awareness and introspection through mindfulness and Loving Kindness.
Brain resilience: understanding brain resilience and vulnerability and developing tools for early detection of brain vulnerability
We use various research methods such as EEG (electroencephalogram) and TMS (trans-magnetic stimulation) which collect quantifiable data that represent the brain’s ability to withstand stress. These methods allow us to characterize the traits of a resilient vs. a vulnerable brain.
Interpersonal interactions from a biological perspective: developing methods and tools for measuring the neural and physiological influence of interpersonal interactions
We use different tools based on measuring the activation of the autonomic nervous system such as heart rate and perspiration as well as on fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) in order to understand how and which interactions have a beneficial influence at the biological level and which are damaging. We are also developing tools which will help people with autism to create better social interactions.
Self-awareness and introspection: the effects of mindfulness and Loving Kindness
Over the past 50 years, there is a growing interest in western society in the ways of thinking of the eastern traditions. Specifically, western therapists are interested in the ways in which these traditions deal with distress and pain according to the Buddhist tradition. In the last decades, meditation-based therapeutic interventions which aim to deal with physical and mental distress such as pain, anxiety and depression have been developed and implemented by mental health specialists. In addition, over the last decade there is a growing scientific interest in the effects of meditation-based brain exercise techniques, and especially mindfulness.
Here at the Sagol Center, we study how the use of mindfulness and Loving Kindness contributes to personal and mental well-being and to the development of positive traits such as empathy, attentiveness, emotional regulation and more.
Neuroeducation (also called educational neuroscience) is a new research field in neuroscience aimed at bridging the scientific gap between the knowledge regarding brain development and functioning and the knowledge in the field of pedagogy. People in this field include neuroscientists, cognitive neuroscientists, educational psychologists, developmental psychologists, pedagogy and education researchers, people involved in developing teaching tools and more. People involved in neuroeducation strive to implement scientific and empirical findings in educational systems from childhood to adulthood. The cooperation between neuroscience and educational science is already bearing fruit as science-based educational programs are now implemented in the classroom, promoting the well-being of students and teachers alike.
Main research topics in the field of neuroeducation
|| How do children acquire spoken and written language, what is the neural basis for disorders in these domains?|
|| How do children acquire mathematical skills, what is the neural basis for disorders in this domain?|
|| How do children develop motor and sensory skills, what is the importance of these skills to cognition and learning?|
|| How to emotional skills contribute to mental well-being, what happens when there are difficulties in emotional regulation?|
|| How do attentional and executive control systems function, what happens when they do not function properly?|
|| How can we promote positive mental traits such as mindfulness, tolerance, mutual respect, empathy, compassion, generosity and more?|
Neuroeducation at the Sagol Center
The Sagol Center is working to advance the field of neuroeducation in Israel in the following ways:
|| We are lobbying for the inclusion of courses about the brain and nervous system in training programs for teachers, school counsellors, school administrators, educational psychologists and any other profession concerned with education or mental health.|
|| We are developing and implementing educational and intervention neuroscience-based programs in schools for the advancement of quality education. These programs focus on promoting the strengths and resilience of students and developing traits which support mental and psychological health such as mindfulness, tolerance, mutual respect, empathy, compassion, generosity and more.|
|| We are disseminating the knowledge regarding nurturing the various traits which support mental and psychological well-being to the public, among other things, by promoting mindfulness-based brain exercises via the MUDA center.|
|| We are translating empirical knowledge in the field of neuroscience into a common language which is accessible to non-scientists in order to promote awareness of the importance of neuroeducation in parents, teachers, health professionals and therapists as well as in children and adolescents. We believe that regardless of age, anyone should understand how the brain works, and especially how the interaction between our environment and our brain influences our physical and psychological well-being.|
||We will form a national council which will consult policy-makers in the fields of education and mental health. We believe that insights from neuroscience and especially from neuroeducation can have a significant contribution to long-term national planning regarding schools and welfare in Israel. Such councils are already successfully operational in different places (such as the USA).|