Who we are > FENS-Kavli Scholars > YOAV LIVNEH (2021)


Country of origin: Israel


Yoav Livneh is a principal investigator at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Yoav studied Psychology and Biology for his BSc at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He initially planned to be a psychotherapist, but soon fell in love with Neurobiology. He then continued to do his PhD in Neurobiology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel with Prof. Adi Mizrahi. During his PhD he investigated the development and plasticity of olfactory adult-born neurons. His studies ranged from single synapses to sensory physiology.

For his postdoctoral research, Yoav joined the labs of Profs. Mark Andermann and Brad Lowell at the Endocrinology Department of BIDMC of Harvard Medical School. There he investigated interoception of physiological needs such as hunger and thirst, and how they bias our perception of sensory cues in our environment. To do so, he developed a novel approach for cellular imaging of the interoceptive insular cortex, and combined it with circuit-mapping, circuit-specific manipulations, and manipulations of peripheral physiology.

Yoav started his research group at the Weizmann Institute in Israel in 2020. His lab focuses on brain-body communication. They are establishing experimental approaches to link computational analyses of cortical activity patterns with changes in gastrointestinal and cardiovascular physiology. This way, they aim to better understand the role of the brain-body loop in maintaining physiological homeostasis, and in guiding behavior.


2020 - Present
Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
2014 - 2019
Postdoctoral fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, USA


Ph.D.: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel


The brain and body are in continuous dialog. Brain-body communication requires interoception, the perception of internal bodily signals. This involves sensing of various signals relating to heart rate, blood sugar levels, temperature, inflammation, and more. In other words, “How do I feel?”

Insular cortex (or ‘insula’) is the main cortical site that integrates external cues with diverse bodily signals. We seek to understand brain-body communication, and its role in regulating diverse behaviors, by focusing on insular cortex as a central node in the brain-body loop. Our research focuses on global physiological need states such as hunger and thirst, as well as on more specific signals such as gastrointestinal nutrient sensing.

We use cellular and sub-cellular two-photon imaging, together with circuit-mapping, circuit manipulation and computational approaches. We combine these approaches with measurements and manipulations of bodily physiology, in the context of goal-directed behaviors.