One of the major problems that societies are facing is intergroup conflicts. To ease tensions, scholars study conflict mechanisms as well as develop evidence-based interventions. Among them, scholars from the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences (CISA) and from the Psychology of Intergroup Conflict and Reconciliation (PICR) dedicated their research to better understand the role of emotions in conflicts and to test emotion-based interventions in order to promote conflict resolution. In this line, researchers from the CISA and PICR have started to collaborate in 2017 and create a research project aiming to test compassion training effects in interpersonal and intergroup conflicts in Switzerland and in Israel. In addition, they want to compare compassion training effects with those of a well-known emotion-based intervention in the field of conflict interventions, the reappraisal training. First steps of this research have been to test in Switzerland compassion training and reappraisal effects on conflicts at the interpersonal level. After promising preliminary results, a study in Israel is planned to investigate compassion training in a real-life intergroup setting: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The main goal is to observe compassion training effects on the attitudes and behaviors of Israelis towards the outgroup, in this case, Palestinian population. To this purpose we plan several short-term research stays to carry out successfully the study creating a vivid exchange between experts of the University of Geneva and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. We truly believe that testing compassion training in a real-life intergroup setting will provide useful and evidence-based guidelines for peacebuilders.
Synaptic connectivity plays an important role in determining brain function. Such structure-function relations in the brain are typically studied by observation and analysis of existing connectivity patterns. However, in order to gain a more causative understanding of how brain structure corresponds to brain function, it is necessary to manipulate connectivity, to insert, delete or reroute specific synaptic connections in vivo and to then examine the impact on function and behavior. Many methods exist for modifying synaptic communication. However, these tend to target overall neuronal input or output rather than specific connections between pre- and postsynaptic neurons. A new synthetic approach consisting of manipulating specific synaptic connections in vivo could boost our capacity to unravel the functional significance of synaptic connectivity. It could also offer potential new strategies for brain repair and pave the way towards applications of artificial life. The Jabaudon (UNIGE) and Rabinowitch (HUJI) labs are independently engaged in efforts to artificially rewire brain circuits in vivo in different systems (vertebrate vs. invertebrate) using distinct approaches. Our goal is to join forces in order to advance our ability to edit synaptic connectivity. As a first step, we wish to organize an intensive joint research workshop in Jerusalem that will enable our teams to learn in detail about each other's work, to consult with external experts and to forge the foundations for a long-term collaboration that would substantially augment our grasp of structure and function in the brain.
Attentional control is the ability to streamline information processing by selecting and amplifying task-relevant information while ignoring irrelevant information in order to conduct goal-directed behaviors. Recently, it has been proposed as a key mechanism in enhancing plasticity and learning, since it enables participants to learn to selectively use the attended features through feedback connections from higher-level areas to sensory areas. The goal of the current collaborative project is to collect preliminary data to further test the hypothesis that enhancing attentional control facilitates learning in a population of depressed individuals, by studying changes in neural mechanisms during learning.
This new project leverage a recently-funded collaboration (the EU-supported DiSCoVeR project) aiming at enhancing attentional control in individuals with depression using a novel intervention that combines non-invasive brain stimulation over the prefrontal cortex and video game play. We now have a rare collaborative opportunity that will allow us to begin to elucidate the underlying mechanisms of the plastic changes induced by this novel intervention, using brain imaging paradigms developed in the Bavelier and Hummel labs. Critically, these paradigms are to be implemented in Nahum’s lab (HUJI) as patients from the DiSCoVeR project will be enrolled at her site but not at the UNIGE site. Results from this pilot project will be used to support a larger EU grant submission which aims at understanding the neural mechanisms of plasticity enhancement via attentional control modification, in both healthy individuals and clinically depressed ones.
The Armenians and their contribution to late medieval Middle Eastern History (ca. 1000-1500 CE)” is a multi-disciplinary project that considers the wider historical and cultural context. Certainly, anyone with a deep interest in Middle Eastern, Caucasian and Mediterranean history in this period should consider the role of the Armenians. The 11th century saw the large-scale migration of Armenians to southwest Anatolia, into an area called Cilicia, with the eventual establishment of an Armenian state. As in the Armenian homeland to the north, Armenian Cilicia dealt with the influx of Seljuq-led Turcomans. Crusaders entering the country, and then moving south, towards the end of the 11th century created more challenges. Through the 12th century modi vivendi were worked out with these groups, but the coming of the Mongols in the 1230s necessitated a strategic change. Both Armenian polities enthusiastically joined the Mongol imperial project. In the long-run, however, the Mongols were unable to provide protection to Cilicia, and after 1260 the Mamluks of Syria and Egypt overran the country, eliminating Armenian independence there in 1375.
The Armenians were key players in the politics of the time, and should be taken into account to properly understand regional developments, while the wider context must be considered to fully appreciate internal Armenian cultural, social and political changes. There has been interesting and important research on these topics, but there is still much to do. We thus call for two workshops.
1- “The Armenians face new challenges: Seljuqs and Crusaders (1000-1240)” 2- “The Armenians and new world orders: Mongols and Mamluks (1240-1500)”