Prof. Avi Goldstein is a Senior Lecturer and Head of the Electromagnetic Brain Imaging (EMBI) Unit at the Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center. His lab uses advanced imaging techniques, such as electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG), to study the neural dynamics underlying high level cognitive and emotional processing.
Goldstein and his team explore the functional differences between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, as well as the neural mechanisms related to attention and emotional responses.
In addition, researchers in Goldstein’s lab collaborate with BIU developmental psychologists on a variety of projects related to cognitive and emotional brain function in children and infants. The EMBI Unit contains the only MEG setup in Israel.
While both hemispheres of the brain work in synchrony, there are certain tasks in which there is relatively greater activity in one hemisphere as opposed to the other. Goldstein and his team study the functional differences between the right and left hemispheres as they relate to cognitive abilities such as language, thinking, attention, emotion, and motivation. In particular, they are interested in how the processing style of the right hemisphere is advantageous in broad-scope tasks such as understanding metaphors and jokes , while the left hemisphere deals better with narrow-scope processes such as simple sentences and logical deductions.
Recently, they demonstrated that subjects who squeezed a ball with their left hand—thereby activating areas in and around the right motor cortex—were significantly better on measures of creativity than subjects who didn’t squeeze a ball or those who squeezed a ball with their right hand.
Goldstein and his team study how different people respond to emotional stimuli. One project involves examing how people with varying attachment styles respond to emotional pictures. Another involves using EEG to investigate differences between romantic love and parental love on a variety of emotion-related tasks. In addition, Goldstein and his team have examined how 6-month old babies respond to emotional facial expressions.
Goldstein’s lab is clarifying how cognitive processes are altered in the presence of neurodegenerative diseases. Using MEG, Goldstein and his team track faulty transmission of neural signals that cause brain activity to become erratic and unsynchronized. They believe that MEG imaging can reveal such non-synchronized brain activity in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease long before any behavioral or cognitive symptoms appear.
Goldstein’s lab is currently developing MEG-based protocols for measuring brain synchrony as a tool for early diagnosis of disorders that may be difficult to differentiate behaviorally, such as bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia.
Goldstein and his team aim to use MEG data to further understand the connectivity between various brain regions, which is one of the keys to understanding the functioning of the whole brain. Using MEG data, they can estimate the location of sources, examine the specific activity frequencies and the synchrony between areas—information that will help further elucidate types of brain region interactions and activity dynamics.