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Neuroscientist Ahmed Moustafa, PhD, spent three months in Israel observing methodology of brain research for Parkinson’s disease at the Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Medicine and training students in conducting research at the Arab Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem. “It is sad,” he says, “that so many people do not benefit from Israel’s amazing, top-quality research because they are unaware of it and think of Israel as simply a political entity.”

When Dr. Moustafa, currently Postdoctoral Researcher at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at America’s Rutgers University in Newark, NJ, was first offered the chance to go to Israel, he was eager for the learning experience and the interaction with colleagues from another country.  As the time got closer, he admits, he started wondering if he was putting his life at risk and whether an Egyptian would be welcomed in Israel. To his pleasant surprise, his Israeli colleagues were most welcoming. The Israelis he met were keen on taking him out for coffee to hear about Egypt and his life experience.

While he expected to hear only Hebrew and see only Israelis as he walked along the streets of Israel and the halls of the Medical School, he was shocked to see all the signs in Arabic, to hear Arabic spoken frequently, and to see people walking around dressed in full hijab, the traditional headcovering worn by Muslim women.

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Ahmed Moustafa in his neuroscience laboratory at Rutgers University-Newark

He also found the level of research at Hadassah equal to the quality at any big prestigious university. Dr. Moustafa had the opportunity to study Hadassah’s systems of laboratory research under Prof. Hagai Bergman, in Hebrew University’s Department of Physiology. Working with monkeys, Dr. Bergman is studying how Parkinson’s disease affects the neurons of the brain that govern behavioral tasks such as visual perception, decision making, and motor action. At Rutgers, Dr. Moustafa is developing computational models that demonstrate how Parkinson’s disease affects a patient’s ability to learn, memorize, and pay attention. His model reveals that dopamine medications enhance attention span in Parkinson’s patients. He is now in the process of clinically testing the mathematical model.

Dr. Moustafa studied mathematics and computer science at Cairo University before coming to the United States, where he began his studies in neuroscience.  He obtained his PhD in cognitive neuroscience from the University of Louisiana, having also done a major part of his research at the University of Arizona. His specific field of study was constructing a mathematical model of how the basal ganglia part of the brain is affected by Parkinson’s disease.

During his time in Israel, Dr. Moustafa attended an Israeli-Palestinian Conference on Alzheimer’s disease. “I would like to encourage other Egyptians to go to conferences in Israel to see the high level of research being done by Israelis,” he says. “Israel is so close; a perfect place to go to study.”

He adds: “I would also hope that Egyptian professors will invite Israeli professors to speak and lecture at Egyptian universities.”

Dr. Moustafa welcomes queries about his research and experience in Israel and at Hadassah (ahmedam@andromeda.rutgers.edu).

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