Joy’s 2020 Academic Grantees

Meet the researchers innovating the future of wellbeing with groundbreaking scientific insights and novel technologies.

We are proud to announce the awarded researchers in the 2020 cycle of Joy Ventures Academic Grant program.

2020 marked the fourth call for proposals within our grant program and the first with a call intended to support research on a global scale. Embracing Joy’s main mission to build, fund and support the next generation of mental wellbeing companies, we decided to fund proposals for research across two tracks: novel technology development and single-year studies that can eventually lead to the creation of highly innovative solutions in our field.

The 21 awarded researchers in this year’s cycle are accelerating profound discoveries and cutting-edge technologies to drive impact across broad areas of wellbeing: from improving sleep quality, overcoming habits and reducing stress, to enhancing mindfulness practices, regulating emotions and beyond.

We look forward to working with these teams and sharing the results of their projects! 

2020 Cycle in Numbers

8 Projects Funded
21 Researchers
11 Research Institutes Represented
3 Continents
4 Prototypes in Development

Joy’s 2020 Academic Grantees

Novel Technology Track

Daniele Di Lernia, Ph.D.
University of the Sacred Heart of Milan

Project Title Wearable interoceptive technologies: Non-invasive neuromodulation for stress reduction, artificial heart rate variability enhancement, and emotion recognition augmentation.

Project Description The interoceptive system represents a core component and gateway to our health, therefore the development of scientifically-grounded technology capable of accessing and manipulating this system would be a breakthrough, with unprecedented potential to promote human health and wellbeing. The Novel Technology Grant will allow Daniele to develop a wearable device able to stimulate the interoceptive tactile afferent system, providing personalized non-invasive neurostimulation that users can activate to enhance wellbeing throughout daily life.

Anat Perry, Ph.D.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Shoham Choshen-Hillel, Ph.D.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Alex Gileles-Hillel, MD.
Hadassah Medical Center

Project Title Countering the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation: Using a sleep-inducing neuromodulation device to improve physicians’ empathy and decision making.

Project description Sleep is vital to almost every aspect of human life. Insufficient sleep imposes an immense negative impact on health and is also associated with poor mental and cognitive functioning. Anat and her team propose to study the impact of sleep deprivation on empathy and decision making among physicians. Their overarching hypothesis is that sleep deprivation interferes with empathic abilities and consequent decision-making regarding patient care. The team suggests that changes in autonomic nervous system balance may underlie these effects and serve as a marker for empathic abilities. The team also proposes an intervention to offset the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation by improving sleep quality and sleep-onset latency, using CogNyx, a novel state-of-the-art non-invasive wearable brain-stimulation device. 

Prof. Joseph “Jay” Sanguinetti
University of Arizona
Prof. John JB Allen
University of Arizona

Project Title Facilitating Mindfulness Training with Ultrasonic Neuromodulation.

Project description Mindfulness enhances physical and psychological health, but many people find it challenging to maintain the practice long enough to experience its benefits. This project will determine whether the acquisition of mindfulness skills during a 14-day course of training can be facilitated by using transcranial ultrasound to impact the brain’s default mode network, as the team’s preliminary work suggests that reducing activity in this network during meditation training is related to enhanced equanimity or the attitude of openness and acceptance towards all experience. Enhancing equanimity may strengthen emotion regulation and resilience, leading to health benefits.

Prof. Simone Shamay-Tsoory
University of Haifa
Dr. Ben Strauber
University of Haifa

Project Title Dyadic Neurofeedback: Driving Neuro-Wellness through Empathy.

Project description Simone and Ben are developing a dyadic neurofeedback platform intended to train people for the first time to increase their brain-to-brain coupling. Simone and Ben will conduct a pilot study using the platform to determine whether such training can increase participants’ connection with each other and enhance their empathy. Potential applications of this work range from relationship counseling to conflict resolution to building synergy among co-workers.

Small Study Pilot

Prof. Ohad Nachtomy
The Technion
 Prof. Moshe Bar
Bar-Ilan University

Project Title The psychophysical lab: An interdisciplinary approach to wellbeing.

Project Description Ohad and Moshe aim to develop “psychophysical” methods for studying mind–body relations by correlating between specific Iyengar yoga postures and affect, starting with a single posture and going on to sequences. The project brings together insights from philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, and focuses on wellbeing as a psychophysical issue to ultimately provide posture-based emotion-management procedures for wellbeing.

Dr. Yafit Gabay
University of Haifa
Dr. Shay Gabay
University of Haifa
Dr. Uri Hertz
University of Haifa

Project Title Overcoming Habits by Stimulating the Brain’s Gaze Control Network.

Project Description  Habits may be debilitating in many aspects of everyday behavior, and overcoming them may improve individuals’ well-being. Habitual behavior underlies many harmful tendencies, ranging from emotional eating to drug abuse and addiction. In this project the team will use transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a noninvasive brain stimulation method, to overcome habitual behavior. Incorporating recent findings linking attention and decision making, the team will target brain regions involved in attention and eye movements that will bias participants’ choices away from habitual responses. By implementing tDCS as a non-invasive therapeutic tool and applying a carefully designed training protocol, the team hopes to empower individuals to explore behavioral alternatives that differ from their previous habitual tendencies.

Dr. Reout Arbel
University Of Haifa
Dr. Noga Cohen
University Of Haifa
Dr. Tomer Sagi
University of Haifa

Project title The Caring Project: Identifying Factors Underlying the Benefits of Emotional Support Provision for the Supporter.

Project Description What do you benefit (if at all) from helping others to feel better? On the quest for answers Reout and her team aim to unravel the person, strategy and situational parameters of successful help provision for the supporter. To this end, the team will test a similar set of parameters in two complementary studies: in the laboratory and in participants’ natural environment. The team will then combine theoretically driven and machine-learning models to move toward a personalized account of successful support provision.

Dr. Eran Eldar
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Dr. Noam Schneck
Columbia University
Isaac Fradkin, Ph.D.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Project Title Revealing Maladaptive Thought Dynamics in Real Life with Neural Decoding.

Project Description On a day-to-day basis, most people experience fluctuations in mood that can have a major impact on their ability to function. Eran and his team use a multifaceted scientific approach to study mood and thought, utilizing cutting-edge, yet affordable brain-sensing technology. Their proposed research will advance our understanding of the relationship between thought dynamics and mood contributing to the development of promising neuro-wellness applications. Indeed, successful results will open the path for the development of novel decoding-based interventions designed to detect and alleviate maladaptive thoughts as they occur.