In the laboratory we research the interrelations between different behavioral patterns and environmental conditions (such as social changes, reproduction cycles, bird migration) and brain plasticity (neurogenesis - which is a process of formation of new nerve cells, and replacement of nerve cells), in the brains of adult birds. It is known today, from our research and also from research in other laboratories, that environmental factors to which the animal is exposed affect brain plasticity. For example, in the past we found that when a bird is exposed to a new, unfamiliar, complex environment (that is to say, it has to get to know many new individuals of its species at once) more new brain cells are recruited in the relevant areas of its brain than when a bird is exposed to a simple, unfamiliar environment (that is to say, it needs to get to know a few new individuals of its species). We hope that these studies will enable better understanding of the mechanisms that control brain plasticity and will perhaps lead in the long term to medical uses. In our laboratory, comprehensive research is also conducted that examines the influence of artificial lighting at night on brain plasticity in birds and the physiology and behavior of insects. This phenomenon of artificial lighting at night (light pollution), is increasing worldwide due to urbanization processes, and there is much evidence of and concern about its damaging influences on the physiology and behavior of animals and humans. Therefore, it is very important to expand the existing knowledge about the effects of light pollution on brain processes.

The laboratory is located in the Zoological Garden in the School of Zoology in the framework of an interinstitutional agreement between Tel Aviv University and the Open University. Over the years I have worked in research partnerships with several faculty members from the School of Zoology, supervised students for advanced degrees, and conducted joint research with Prof. Zeman of Slovakia. I am also a partner in a consortium in the framework of the European Union (Horizon 2020 Marie Curie ETN program) on the subject of: Variations in stress responsivity in hens: matching birds to environments.

Prof. Anat Barnea