People‎ > ‎Principal investigators‎ > ‎

Prof. Avi Karni, M. D.

Prof. Avi Karni, M. D.

Chair, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Science & Science Education

Current Status
Member, the Departments of Learning Disabilities & Neurobiology and Ethology

Research Interests
Neurobiology of learning & memory, sleep, memory consolidation, language-brain systems, motor control & motor learning, acquisition of language & arithmetical skills, perceptual learning, functional MRI. 
The motor skills and motor disabilities laboratory is using video-based movement recording and analysis systems to study motor skill acquisition and motor memory. A major aim is to study differential changes in the acquisition of skills (procedural, “how to”, knowledge) in typically developing persons as compared to persons with developmental learning disabilities. Studies of diurnal (time of day) and sleep effects in the acquisition of procedural knowledge and the effects of pharmacological agents (e.g., stimulants) on memory consolidation in young adults with ADHD are under way. Another project addresses the effects of observation and imitation on the acquisition of motor skill. A third project relates to the acquisition and maintenance of non-volitional skills of balance and posture control 2 questions are addressed: a) whether non-volitional skills are acquired and retained in memory in a manner similar to that of volitional, manual, skills; and b) whether balance learning mechanisms are intact in young adults with developmental learning disabilities. 
Other projects relate to the acquisition of language skills, specifically the ability to apply morpho-phonological language rules in a fluent and accurate manner. The paradigm has been well established (Ferman and Karni, PLoS ONE, 2010). The working hypothesis is that there may be no inherent childhood advantage in the acquisition of linguistic skills compared to young adults. Moreover, some maturation-dependant advantages in the acquisition of linguistic skill were noted. In addition to challenging a commonly assumed notion that procedural (“how-to”) memory in children is superior to that of adults, our results raise the possibility that language skills can be significantly strengthened through practice protocols even in adulthood, thus increasing the available time window for remediation. One study addresses the issue of differences in memory consolidation and susceptibility to interference by previous linguistic experience in adulthood. Another study addresses language skill learning in children with developmental specific language impairment (SLI) as compared to typically-developing children.

Current Projects
Prof. Avi Karni is conducting a study of language acquisition in both children and adults in the Functional Brain Imaging & Learning Research Laboratory and Motor Skills and Motor Disabilities Laboratory.

  • J. Doyon & J. Carrier (U. Montreal); H. Benali (INSERM, Paris); P. Maquet (U Liege).
  • F. Binkofski (U. Aachen); J. Classen (U. Leipzig);
  • E. Vakil & E. Adi-Japha (Bar Ilan U.); S. Ferman (Tel Aviv University).