Prof. Ofer Yizhar was awarded a BSc in biology with distinction at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2001 and a PhD in neurobiology with distinction at the Tel Aviv University in 2008. He did his postdoctoral research at Stanford University in California from 2008 to 2011. In 2011, he joined the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2019, he took a one-year sabbatical leave to conduct research in the Center for Brain Science at Harvard University.
Prof. Yizhar focuses his investigations on unraveling the mysteries of the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that contributes to many higher brain functions, including language, working memory, emotional regulation, and goal-directed behavior. To investigate the physiology of neural circuits, he uses optogenetics, a tool that enables the investigation of neuron functions. He played a pivotal role in the development of many of the optogenetic tools being used today worldwide in brain research; optogenetic technology allows precise control over the activity of defined elements within the neural circuit. In this way, Prof. Yizhar can learn about the function of a neural circuit and establish causal links between patterns of circuit activity and animal behavior. His research has implications for the study and treatment of brain-related disorders including autism, schizophrenia, mood and anxiety disorders, epilepsy, and beyond.
Prof. Yizhar’s academic and professional awards include the 2005 Jorge Deutsch Prize for Research in Bio-Medicine, the 2011 Sieratzki Prize for Neuroscience Research, a career development award from the International Human Frontier Science Program (2013), the Adelis Brain Research Award (2018), the Bernard Katz Award (2019), and the Levinson Prize for Biological Research (2019). His research has been funded by prestigious grants from the Israel Science Foundation, the European Research Commission, the Human Frontier Science Program and the Simons Foundation.
Prof. Yizhar is married to Lital and they live on the Weizmann campus with their three children, Yotam, Maayan, and Tamar. When he’s not in the lab, he enjoys spending time with his family, hiking, trail running and playing the piano.