Prize for Promising Young Israeli Researcher:
Professor Noam Sobel
Professor Noam Sobel of the Weizmann Institute of Science was awarded the Rappaport Prize for Promising Young Researcher in recognition of his research into the cerebral systems controlling the human olfactory system and translating this knowledge into useful applications in medicine and rehabilitation. Professor Sobel identified the brain structures that monitor human olfactory sniffing, and his study served as the basis for various clinical applications. One application is for sleep disorders (apnea), which are characterized by lapses in breathing during sleep. Professor Sobel’s research team discovered that a sniffing response also occurs during sleep, and this response can jumpstart the respiratory system and thus prevent breathing lapses that characterize sleep apnea. The research team developed a device that generates controlled odors and is currently undergoing pilot testing in the homes of sleep apnea patients. In addition, Sobel invented a device that converts sniffing into electrical signals. By using the Sniff-Controller, patients with some limb paralysis can move independently using an electric wheelchair, and patients with full paralysis are able to operate a computer. Individuals who are unable to communicate with the world will be able to use this device to write and communicate. The device is already being used by individuals with paralysis in Israel and Europe, and Prof. Sobel expresses hope that the use of this device soon will be available worldwide.