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August 28, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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August 28, 2009
 

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PAGE 20A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 28, 20C? TEL AVIV--When we absorb new information, the human brain reshapes itself to store this newfound knowledge. But where ex- actly is the new knowledge kept, and how does that capacity to adapt reflect our risk for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of senile dementia later in our lives? Dr. Yaniv Assaf of Tel Aviv University's Department of Neurobiology is pioneering a new way to track the effect of memory on brain structure. "With aspecificMRI methodol- ogy called 'Diffusion Imaging MRI,' we can investigate the microstructure of the tissue without actually cutting into it," he explains. "We can mea- sure how much capacity our brain has to change structur- ally, what our memory reserve is and where that happens." Dr. Yaniv Assaf His study, presented at the annual meeting of the Human Brain Mapping Organization in San Francisco, has been pivotal to the way scientists view the effect of memory on the brain. Scientists used to believe that the brain took days or weeks to change its microstructure. Assaf's new observations demonstrate that the microstructure can change in mere hours. "It gives us a quantifiable measure of the plasticity of each individual brain." he says. "It's possible that before a person experiences any memory loss, the plasticity is affectedthat is, the ability of one's brain to adapt to change. A lack of ability for change in the brain could mean suscep- tibility to dementia. Now, we have the means to monitor this ability." In order to track changes in the brain, Assaf developed a study that focused on spa- tial learning and memory. "Usually, scientists distin- guish between functional and structural plasticity," he says. Functional plasticity refers to neuronal activity in the brain, while structural plasticity refers to the physi- cal shape of the brain itself. "From animal studies we know that spatial memory tasks have consequences for both." First, study volunteers were scanned by Diffusion Imaging MRI. Then, they were asked to play two hours of a race-track video game, going over the same virtual race track 16 times. "This measured a special form of memory spatial memory," says Assaf. "Each time they circled the track, the time they took to complete it decreased. At the end of the two hours, we put them back into the MRI to see the difference." Assaf and his team saw a marked change measured by Diffusion Imaging MRI in the characteristics of brain microstructure. The memorization of the virtual race track affected the hip- pocampus, motor and visual areas of the brain. "The most striking thing about this study is that it shows structural plastic- ity happening in only two hours," he says. "This chang- es what we think structural plasticity is. It shows that memory is rapidly changing the structure of the cells, and that may lead to a lasting effect on the brain." According toAssaf, most of the research on Alzheimer's disease and dementia fo- cuses on its aftereffects. Diffusion Imaging MRI, he believes, could be used for early dtetection of the disorder. "We can study the memory capacity of an individual at high risk for these disor- ders, and compare it to the morphological plasticity of people who are not at risk." Assafsays. "Such an approach may allow us to develop an intervention at an early stage, possibly in the form of drugs, one that may notbe appropriate at a later stage." One parallel study, now being pursued in collaboration with Tel Aviv University's profes- sor Daniel M. Michaelson. involves working with MRI and animals with mutations of Alzheimer's. Assaf's work was done in collaboration with his Ph.D. students Yaniv Sagi, Tamar Katzir, Efrat Sasson and Ido Tavor. By Aaron Passman Jewish Exponent PHILADELPHIAAI- though their deaths have put their names in headlines and news reports around the world, no one quite knew Daniel. Douglas and Steven Altman the way the Philadel- phia Jewish community did. Daniel Altman, 49. and his son Douglas, 15, of Dresher, were killed when a private plane--piloted by Daniel's brother Steven, 60. of nearby Ambler--collided with a sightseeing helicopter 1.100 feet above the Hudson River in New York while en route to Ocean City, N.J. In addition to the Altmans, five Italian tourists and the helicopter pilot died in the crash. The family were longtime members at Temple Sinai, a Conservative synagogue in Dresher, and those who knew the family praised their com- mitment to Jewish life and [earning, their generosity and their history of philanthropic giving. The synagogue in the suburban Philadelphia com- munity of 5.600 had long been the family's spiritual home. and Douglas would have been a member of the confirmation class for the upcoming academic year. At the request of the family, leaders of the congregation made no public comment. but one person who knew the family particularly well was Faith Rubin. Temple Sinai's Iongtime religious school director and now coordinator of enhanced education. In her role as religious school director, she shep- herded many members of the Altman family through their Jewish educations, from Douglas all the way up to David and Louise Altman, Jewish Exponent Steven Airman (l) and brother Daniel, who ran a real estate group founded more than 50 years ago by their father, were well esteemed in the business and Jewish communities in the Philadelphia area. the teenager's grandparents and the parents of Steven and Daniel. Rubin said she had long held weekly study sessions with the elder Altmans, who had three children in addition to Steven and Daniel. She recalled "the delight of listening to them talk The gates of heoven ore open ond so ore our doon. foe Robbi Gory Perro$ Contoriol Soloist Debbie Meitin OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, EVERYONE IS $ qELCOME! 77c e are $760 for adulb (no tich required for children under 18 /nter~ted in ~omirKj a Temple/sroe/meml~r? Four tic/~=t purcho~ con be opp/ied to your Membe h o Due for 2009. Erev Rosh HaShana - Friday, Sept. 18 1st Day Rosh HaShana - Saturday, Sept. 19 Day Rosh HaShana - Sunday, Sept. 20 (no ticket needed Kol Nidre - Sunday, Sept. 28 Yom Kippur Day - Monday, Sept. 28 Yom Kippur Evening - conduding services (no ticket needed) A Progres Congregafion in 1954 50 S. Moss RoadlN/nter Springs, 32708 (1.2 rares east of17-92 on State Road 434) For tickets or additional information: 407-647-3055 / www.TiFlorida.org Temple] srael@tiflorida.org Order tickets online at: Eflorida. orgT"order__ highho lida),: him about their grandchildren, the great pride they had in them. It was very special to them that they continued Jewish education beyond bar mitzvah." Douglas and his older brother. Max, were both quite popular among their peers, Rubin said. "Wfiat made the clan memorable to people." she said, was "the fact that they reached out to people. They cared about the people they met and spoke with. always asking about family and remembering family." Fred Poritsky, for five years the executive director of Temple Sinai. recalled the family as always being active within the synagogue not just giving financially but serving on committees and being actively involvedwith the congregational com- munity. Steven Altman was a board member with the Albert Ein- stein Healthcare Network, where he served on the board of overseers, according to board chairman Richard Scheerr. "He was a successful busi- nessman, and a businessman with a good heart, and those are combinations that we look for," Scheerr said. Steven Altman also helped raise money for the Green Tree Community Health Foundation, a local nonprofit, and served as a pilot with Angel Flight, a group that provides flee air transporta- tion for medical or charitable needs. "To help people less for- tunate than you that you don't even know is like the highest form of tzedakah." Poritsky said. The two brothers ran the Altman Management Co., a Fort Washington-based real estate group founded more than 50 years ago by their fdther. Many of their colleagues in the real estate world spoke highly of the brothers, includ- ing Gary Erlbaum, a real es- tate developer involved with numerous Jewish causes. Erlbaum said he's known the Altman family for more than 40 years, first developing a business relationship with David and his brother Irving, and later with David's sons. He remembered the broth- ers as being "very pro-Israel," and said that Steven Altman often donated to elected officials whom he deemed supportive of the Jewish state, regardless of their party af- filiation. "He was an independent thinker." Erlbaum said. "Most ofotir conversations in recent years have been really on do- mestic policies and his busi- ness. He was ever expanding his business." Robert Rosenthal, a Gwynedd Valley resident also in the real estate business, had grown up with Daniel Altman, attending Spring- field High School with him, Daniel. a big sports fan. had been one of the few Jewish players on the high school's football team. Both Erlbaum and Rosen- thai said that in the often cut- throat world of real estate, the Altmans had a reputation for civility in business dealings. The Altmans also were actively involved in State of Israel Bonds and the Anti-Defamation League, which recently named Ste- ven Altman a board mem- ber. They also supported the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and were donors at the leader- ship level. Len Zimmerman. execu- tive director of ;State of Israel Bonds, said the family was set to be honored in November for its long history of sup- porting the group. Zimmerman recalled hav- ing lunch with the family last month to discuss the honors. "They were joking around and excited about the wed- ding coming up," he said, referring to the nuptials of Steven Altman's daughter Abby, who was married July 25. 3he reportedly learned of the tragedy while on her honeymoon. Zimmerman, also a Temple Sinai member, knew Daniel Altman from living in the same neighborhood. "You could tell they were a close family," he said. "You could just tell that there was so much warmth and love for each other."