Prof. Avi Karni

Affiliation

Faculty of Natural Sciences, Sagol Department of Neurobiology & Faculty of Education, the Edmond J Safra Brain Research Center for the Study of Learning Disabilities; the Integrated Center for Brain and Behavior

Academic background

M.D. from the Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University. Neurology residency completed at the C. Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer. Ph.D. from the Department of Applied Mathematics & Computer Science, Weizmann Institute of Science (mentor: Dov Sagi). Post-doctoral Fellowship at the National Institutes of Health, USA (mentor: Leslie Ungerleider).

Research interests

Research in my lab addresses the neurological mechanisms of, and neuro-behavioral constraints on, human brain plasticity in learning and memory. The studies focus on skill ("how to" knowledge) acquisition processes in healthy individuals but also in individuals with developmental and acquired neurological disabilities. The main model system studied are motor skill consolidation but we also address learning and memory in relation to literacy skills and language use. I and my students are using neuro-imaging technologies combined with performance/behavior analyses.

A sample project

We have recently discovered that task-irrelevant, low-intensity vibrotactile stimulation (VtSt), suggested to play a modulating role in motor learning, may compensate for the apparent learning deficits in ADHD. Participants were given training, either with or without VtSt to the trunk, on a sequence of finger opposition movements. Under VtSt, typical peers expressed reduced overnight, consolidation phase, gains; performance partly recovering one week later. In contrast, participants with ADHD benefited from VtSt both during the acquisition (online) and the overnight skill consolidation (offline) phases. One week later, both groups showed robust retention of the gains in performance, but test performance with background VtSt lead to additional benefits for individuals with ADHD. These results suggest that ADHD can be considered a neuro-behavioural phenotype that may confer advantages in performance, learning and skill memory consolidation in ‘noisy’ conditions that adversely affect typical peers.

Relevant courses

Dept of Neurobiology - Introduction to Systems Neurobiology, graduate level (open); Dept of Neurobiology - Brain plasticity and human skill acquisition, graduate level seminar (open); Dept of Human Biology - Scientific writing, graduate (open); Dept of Learning Disabilities - Learning: a biological perspective, graduate seminar (open); Dept of Learning Disabilities - Ph.D. students' seminar (open).

Current students and alumni

M.A. students: Lian Yalon, Noam Malkinson, Etti Amit Yakobovitz, Rotem Samina; M.Sc. students: Yarden Cohen, Liza Haber, Eyal Reiner, Arthur Lurie, Sigal cohen; Ph.D. students: Carmit Gal, Ishay Levi, Rim Halabi, Maisam Hayek, Yaniv Oren, Liat Barenbom, Rafat Ganname, Hazar Ganname, Amir Grosvirt, Mahmoud Sindiani, Gil Leizerovitz, Sharon Freidman, Noyli Nisan, Avital Toviana, Yasmin Geiger (at the WIS).