Professor Shlomo Bentin, a world expert in cognitive neuropsychology was killed on Friday in Berkley, California, after he was hit by a truck while cycling. He was 65 years of age when he died.
Bentin, professor of psychology at the Hebrew University, and recipient of this year's Israel Prize, was also well known for his contribution to research implementation in various fields, from improvements in the teaching of reading, to improvements in clinical medicine.
Bentin was born in Romania in 1946, and immigrated to Israel with his family at the age of 12. He married his childhood sweetheart, Miri, and had three children.
Bentin began his studies of psychology and mathematics at Tel Aviv University, and after graduating with honors, studied behavioral biology at the Haifa Technion. He then joined the Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem where he directed the psychophysiological laboratory, while completing his Ph.D in neurobiology. In 1983 he began to teach at the Hebrew University Faculty of Medicine, and was appointed senior lecturer in 1987. At the beginning of the 1990s, Bentin was appointed Associate Professor at the psychology department, becoming full professor in 1994.
Bentin was awarded the Israel Prize due to "his immense scientific contribution to the science of psychology in general and cognitive neuroscience and cognitive neuropsychology, in particular… one of the impressive characteristics of Professor Bentin's work is his contribution to unrelated fields, leaving an impression on each and every one."
Bentin contributed to the study of the functional differences of the brain's hemispheres, and was considered one of the leading researchers of reading in Hebrew. According to the Israel Prize Committee, his work in the identification of written words, reading and developmental dyslexia "vastly influenced the evolution of reading instruction in Israel." Among other contributions, Bentin developed a series of tests, still used today, to diagnose reading difficulties.
Bentin was also known for groundbreaking discoveries in the cognitive mechanisms that explain the human ability to recognize faces. In the nineties, he carried out studies involving epilepsy sufferers, and discovered an electrical signal involved in the face recognition mechanism in the brain. Today, this electrical signal is being researched in laboratories around the world, and is considered the main electrophysiological measure of face recognition.
Buntin continued developing this area of research in Israel and the world, and showed that this was a unique identification process that is different to other object recognition processes. In recent years, Buntin, along with his student Dr. Hillel Aviezer, researched the cerebral and conceptual apparatus for decoding facial expressions.
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