Dr. Shlomo Wagner Head of the Laboratory for Neurobiology of Social Behavior, University of Haifa, Haifa, was one of four researchers awarded a $1.3 million grant to decipher the mechanisms in the brain which control the hormone oxytocin – a neurotransmitter responsible for social communication.
The grant was awarded by by the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP), a European Union-funded organization that encourages ground-breaking scientific research. The HFSP is an international organization that supports scientific advances by research teams who integrate investigators from different countries and various disciplines.
The other partners in Dr. Wagner’s team are Dr. Valery Grinevich from the University of Heidelberg in Germany, Dr. Joseph Buxbaum from the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, and Dr. David Hansel from the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris.
Their joint research, which was ranked 12th out of more than 1,200 grant proposals, seeks to find specific groups of neurons associated with the operation of the hormone oxytocin in the brain, which would thereby enable the direct linking of specific neurons with specific behaviors – something which is extremely difficult to accomplish.
“This is a very ambitious task, which brings together the use of innovative technologies and a fascinating multidisciplinary approach” the jury noted. “If the research succeeds, as we expect it will,” said Dr. Wagner, “we will be able to identify different groups of neurons that operate during various kinds of social behavior. This will lead us to the possibility of preventing a specific social behavior, for example, aggression or fear of crowds, without impairing other behavior.”