Talma Hendler


principal investigator

Talma Hendler
Assistant Professor, Medicine and Psychology
Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel Aviv University

Talma Hendler is the founding director of the Functional Brain Center at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at Tel-Aviv University, a graduate of Tel Aviv University (M.D.), Stony Brook U, NY (Ph.D.) and NIMH (Post-Doc). Prof. Hendler is a world-recognized researcher in cognitive neuroscience focusing on emotional brain mechanisms and their pathological manifestations in humans. Thus, her work uniquely bridges between basic- and clinical neuroscience emphasizing advanced imaging methodologies. In the last decade she published more than 60 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, with an impressive record of visiting lectures in international conferences and labs in Israel and around the world. With direct access and extensive experience with advanced neuroimaging including fMRI and combined EEG, Prof. Hendler’s group conducts a variety of research protocols on healthy and clinical groups. The Functional Brain Center is the first and leading functional imaging unit in Israel, working in close relation with two dedicated physicists on site, and a group of collaborating brain researchers around the country and world. The unit includes about 25 graduate students and two post docs, most of them mentored by Prof. Hendler, either solely (15) or in collaboration with her colleagues.



Rakefet Sela-Sheffy

Assistant Professor, Semiotics and Culture Research
Tel Aviv University

Yehuda Judd Ne’eman
Emeritus Professor, Film
Tel Aviv University

The Great Virtue of Anger Control: What Culture Tells and Brain Records
Anger, a survival response that is inherent in most living creatures. In animals, anger is an instinctual reaction towards threat and prey. Humans, on the other hand, are endowed with the mental flexibility to control and regulate their anger, and adapt it to socially accepted rules. This human capacity is a virtue that lies at the heart of ethics and moral behavior. Anger control and its management develop throughout life, in the interface between biology and culture. The power of culture lies, to a large extent, in preconditioning the emotive drives of individuals in a group. Evidence points to collectively consented and socially transmitted patterns (i.e. models) that govern the modulation of the individual affective response. In the search for brain manifestations of emotion, cultural differences are too often disregarded. The researchers integrated the missing cultural aspect of anger management with neuro-behavioral measures. In particular they explored the internalization of anger management during military service, where stoic-oriented pedagogy promotes emotional regulation and enhances the containment and control of anger.

The main assumption was that individual differences in anger management largely correspond with socio-cultural background and vocation, and that this manifest in patterns of brain activation and connections. It is also assumed that encouragement of certain anger models, and the discouragement of other, influence both emotional repertoire and neural dynamics. To test these assumptions the researchers employed methods from neuroscience and culture research. Neuroscience methodology implies that anger management forms can be probed by functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), while culture research proposes that it can be defined by discourse analysis of verbal outputs. Together, this novel neuro-culture perspective can demonstrate how cultural models of anger management are manifest as unique patterns of brain working.

To characterize the behavior and brain patterns of anger experience and its management the researchers performed two anger induction experiments during brain scanning: annoying interpersonal interactions based of the Ultimatum Game, and passive viewing of conflicting political film excerpt. Related verbal outputs were recorded on-line, and following the brain scan, participants were interviewed about their experience during the anger inducing situations. Anger models revealed by discourse analysis of the verbal outputs corresponded to specific patterns of brain activity during anger induction. Another objective of this project was the tracing of changes in the repertoire of anger management. Two groups of young males were included and examined at twice over one year: 30 soldiers, undergoing intense training, and 30 civilians at the same age in community service. Combat training was assumed to encourage stoic-like anger management behavior, thus soldiers compared to civilians were to show greater change in brain and verbal responses to anger induction between the two time points. Our initial finding indeed supports this view.

The significance of the project lies in establishing innovative methods for evaluation of a virtuous behavior (i.e. anger management) thus paving a way for new science of virtue. It may also add a novel facet to neuroscience by studying the interface between biology and the humanities.

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