Scientifica's top sessions to attend at Neuroscience 2019

Scientifica's top sessions to attend at Neuroscience 2019

With Neuroscience 2019 just around the corner, here are our picks of some sessions that look particularly interesting, to help you make the most of the conference. We have included lectures symposia and minisymposia. 

Are you an early career scientist? Take a look at our recommended Professional Development Workshops to attend here


All lectures will be taking place in McCormick Place, Hall B1.

David Kopf Lecture On Neuroethics: The Neuroethics Frontier - Nita Farahany, JD, PhD

22nd October 2019, 3:00 – 4:10pm

How should we think about our emerging capabilities of accessing and altering human brains, particularly in light of advances in genome-editing technologies? This lecture will focus on the ethical, legal, and social issues arising from accessing and altering human brains. It will discuss consumer neuro-technologies, corporate interests in accessing and changing brains, and government attempts to do the same. It will also consider the current and future potential directions of these neuroethical issues, particularly in light of recent controversies about human genome-editing.

Presidential Special Lecture: The Cell Biology of the Synapse and Behavior - Daniel A. Colón-Ramos, PhD

21st October 2019, 5:15 – 6:30pm

When, where, and how synapses form underpin the architecture of the nervous system and behaviors. Synapses are both precisely assembled during development and flexible during learning and memory. How can synapses be both precise and malleable to facilitate both the assembly and function of the brain? This lecture will discuss new findings that link the fundamental cell biological properties of single synapses to how they underpin the emergent property of the nervous system: behavior.

Presidential Special Lecture: Understanding Cortical Development and Disease: From Embryos to Brain Organoids - Paola Arlotta, PhD

20th October 2019, 5:15 – 6:30pm

Much remains unknown regarding the cellular and molecular mechanisms governing mammalian brain development. Focusing on the cerebral cortex, this lecture will present data on the mechanistic principles that control the developmental generation of cellular diversity in vivo, and consider to what extent processes of cortical development can be replicated outside the embryo, within brain organoids. This lecture will also discuss the challenges of modeling human corticogenesis in the dish, and the promise that brain organoids hold to investigate complex human neurodevelopmental disease.

Presidential Special Lecture- Wavefront Engineering: Illuminating the Neural Landscape - Valentina Emiliani, PhD

22nd October 2019, 5:15 – 6:30pm

The revolution of optogenetics has opened perspectives in both fundamental and medical neuroscience unimaginable 10 years ago. Joint progress in the design of microbial opsins and in the shaping of wave fronts to precisely guide light through tissues is now bringing the field into a new phase that we can call circuit optogenetics, where neural circuits distributed across several brain areas can be optically interrogated and controlled with millisecond precision and single-cell resolution.

Special Lecture: Aberrant Phase Separation in Neurodegenerative Disease - Anthony A. Hyman, PhD

23rd October 2019, 10:30 – 11:40am

Cells organize many of their biochemical reactions by formation and dissolution of non-membrane-bound compartments. Recent experiments show that a common mechanism for such biochemical organization is phase separation of unstructured proteins to form liquid-like compartments. These liquid-like compartments can be described by principles elucidated from condensed-matter physics and are therefore termed biomolecular condensates. This lecture will cover the relationship between the formation of liquid-like compartments, quality control mechanisms that preserve the liquid-like state, and the onset of aggregated-protein pathology that is commonly observed in neurodegenerative diseases.

CLINICAL NEUROSCIENCE LECTURE: From Pecking Order to Ketamine: Neural Mechanisms of Social and Emotional Behaviors - Hailan Hu, PhD

20th October 2019, 10:30 – 11:40am

Emotions and social interactions color our lives and shape our behaviors. Using animal models and engineered manipulations, we aim to understand how social and emotional behaviors are encoded, focusing on the neural circuits underlying dominance hierarchy and depression. This lecture will highlight recent discoveries on the interplay between winning history and prefrontal circuit activities; the impact of social status loss on depression; and how ketamine tames depression by blocking bursts in the brain's anti-reward center, involving a surprising role of glia.

Special Lecture: Neural Codes for Natural Behaviors in Flying Bats - Nachum Ulanovsky, PhD

23rd October 2019, 1:30 – 2:40pm

Natural Neuroscience aims to decipher the neural mechanisms of natural behaviors in freely-moving animals. This lecture will focus on studies of neural codes for space, time, and social behaviors in flying bats using wireless neurophysiology methods. It will highlight new neuronal representations discovered in animals navigating through complex, 3D, or large-scale environments, or engaged in social interactions. The lecture will posit that neuroscience experiments in bats, rodents, or humans should be conducted under evermore naturalistic settings.


From Single-Cell Profiling to Human Brain Organoids: Capturing Neural Development and Disease – Chair: Sergiu P. Pasca, MD

21st October 2019, 1:30 – 4:00pm, Room S100A

A critical challenge in understanding human brain development and disease has been the lack of direct access to functioning human neural tissue for detailed molecular investigation. This symposium will introduce recent advances in generating stem cell-derived neurons and glial cells in preparations known as brain organoids and assembloids. Moreover, it will illustrate how single-cell genomic & transcriptomic methods as well as studies of RNA and DNA modifications are advancing our understanding of neural development and disease.

New Approaches to Vision Restoration – Chair: Joshua R. Sanes, PhD

23rd October 2019, 8:30 – 11:00am, Room S100A

A variety of translational strategies are being developed to restore vision to those who have blinding diseases. This symposium features premier investigators who will highlight four different approaches by discussing cutting-edge research in gene therapy, cell therapy, retinal prostheses, and optogenetic therapy. It will inform the community about the current state of the science using these approaches and highlight their potential to treat debilitating diseases of the visual system.

Epigenetic Mechanisms: Shared Pathology Across Brain Disorders – Chair: Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD

19th October 2019, 1:30 – 4:00pm, Room S100A

The pathogenesis of many brain disorders converges on epigenetic changes, leading to lasting transcriptional dysregulation and synaptic dysfunction. This symposium will discuss recent findings on the key role of epigenetic mechanisms in stress-induced depression, autism-like social deficits, drug addiction, and age-related memory loss. It will also discuss the therapeutic potential of targeting epigenetic enzymes, such as chromatin remodelers and histone modifiers, for complex brain disorders.

Opening the Black Box of the Hippocampus: Visualizing Memories in Distinct Cell Types, Microcircuits, and Cellular Compartments – Chair: Mazen Kheirbek, PhD

20th October 2019, 8:30 – 11:00am, Room S100BC

The hippocampus is comprised of many cell types and circuits that differentially contribute to aspects of memory encoding. Recent technological advances have led to a reassessment of the hippocampus, its information processing capacity, and how it controls behavior. This symposium will describe how electrophysiology, imaging, and computational tools can be combined to decode the function of hippocampal cell types, microcircuits, and subcellular compartments in the control of behavior.


Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis in Humans and Rodents: New Evidence and New Perspectives – Chair: Juan Song, PhD

22nd October 2019, 1:30 – 4:00pm, Room S100BC

Adult neurogenesis in mammals including humans affords remarkable structural and functional plasticity and regenerative capacity to mature circuits. This minisymposium will cover the most recent topics in adult hippocampal neurogenesis, including new evidence for human adult hippocampal neurogenesis, visualization of neural stem cells in living mice, regulation of adult neurogenesis by niche cells and neural circuits, and adult neurogenesis in the contexts of behavior and diseases.

Functional Maturation of Cerebello-Cerebral Interactions – Chair: Freek E. Hoebeek, PhD

20th October 2019, 8:30 – 11:00am, Room S406A

The developmental processes that connect the cerebellum to the cerebrum constitute critical morphogenetic events that span embryogenesis through postnatal life. It is argued that disrupting these mechanisms results in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, movement diseases such as cerebral palsy, and language defects such as dyslexia. This minisymposium brings together recent experimental and clinical advances to better define the cerebellum's role in cerebral maturation.

Novel Mechanistic Roles for Sodium Channels in Neurodevelopmental Disorders – Chair: Kevin J. Bender, PhD

20th October 2019, 8:30 – 11:00am, Room S105

Disease-related alterations in ion channel function, termed channelopathies, contribute to a range of neurodevelopmental disorders. This minisymposium will highlight advances in our understanding of how pathogenic variation in sodium channels contributes to a range of neurodevelopmental disorders, including new insight into well-established sodium channelopathies leading to epilepsy and new associations between sodium channels and other developmental disorders, including autism and schizophrenia.

The Gut-Brain Axis in Health and Brain Disease – Chair: Arthur Liesz, MD

20th October 2019, 1:30 – 4:00pm, Room S406A

The gut microbiome is a critical player in neurodevelopment and aging as well as in brain diseases including stroke, Alzheimer?s disease, and Parkinson?s disease. Intestinal bacteria act along the gut-brain axis in part by modifying the immune response. Bacteria also produce neuroactive mediators and can modulate neuronal function, plasticity and behavior. This minisymposium will highlight recent insights on the bi-directional communication along the brain-gut-microbiome-immune axis.

The Synaptic Vesicle Cycle Revisited: New Insights Into the Modes and Mechanisms – Chair: Jennifer R. Morgan, PhD

22nd October 2019, 1:30 – 4:00pm, Room S105

Neurotransmission relies critically upon the ability of nerve terminals to locally recycle synaptic vesicles with precise efficiency. Recently, the field has witnessed many exciting discoveries on synaptic vesicle recycling. Novel pathways have been identified; multiple modes of vesicle exo-/endocytosis have been reported, distinguished by speed; and new points of molecular regulation are now known. This minisymposium will present these findings and discuss how they impact the classical view of the vesicle cycle.

Parabrachial Complex: A Hub for Pain and Aversion – Chair: Mary M. Heinricher, PhD

20th October 2019, 8:30 – 11:00am, Room S406B

The parabrachial nucleus complex (PBN) has long been recognized as a sensory relay for taste, nociception, and interoception, but how this information is integrated and used to inform different behavioral outputs is only now being elucidated. This minisymposium will provide a context for interrogation of PBN circuits involved in aversion and avoidance and consider how information is integrated within PBN and transmitted to distinct targets to signal alarm and engage appropriate behavioral responses.

Beta Oscillations in Sensorimotor Function, Executive Action Control, and Working Memory – Chair: Robert Schmidt, PhD

22nd October 2019, 8:30 – 11:00am, Room S406A

Beta oscillations in cortical and basal ganglia networks remain mysterious, yet they are closely linked to network function and dysfunction. While beta is classically seen as representing an akinetic state, this minisymposium will highlight new insight into beta in the sensorimotor system and in cognitive control. Results across three species as well as from computational modelling, deep brain stimulation and electrophysiology that explain the mechanisms and function of beta and closed-loop methods in patients will be presented.

Insights Into Neural Coding and Behavior From Large-Scale Population Recordings Across Cortical Areas – Chair: Jerry L. Chen, PhD

21st October 2019, 8:30 – 11:00am, Room S406B

Cognitive functions involve information processing within and across the neocortical areas. This minisymposium aims to unravel how local and global cortical dynamics contribute to sensory processing, attention, working memory, and decision making. Novel optical and electrophysiological methods for simultaneous recordings across multiple areas, their application across mammalian species, and computational approaches for analyzing large-scale population activity will be discussed.

Sex Differences in Drug Craving and Addiction-Like Behaviors in Rodent Models – Chair: Mathieu E. Wimmer, PhD

19th October 2019, 1:30 – 4:00pm, Room S102

Women tend to have greater vulnerability than men to developing symptoms that define Substance Use Disorder, including escalation of drug taking and withdrawal symptoms. Moreover, the limited treatment options for addiction are less effective in women compared to men. This minisymposium highlights recent advances in rodent models of addiction that dissect the molecular, hormonal, and neuronal circuits underlying sex differences in addiction-like behaviors and craving and relapse vulnerability.

Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) Cell Heterogeneity in Health and Disease – Chair: Nicholas W. Gilpin, PhD

21st October 2019, 8:30 – 11:00am, Room S102

Historically, most research on the ventral tegmental area (VTA) has tested dopamine function as it relates to reward processing. Recent progress indicates 1) non-dopamine VTA neurons significantly impact behavior, 2) VTA inputs and outputs have multiple, sometimes opposing, behavioral effects, and 3) the VTA subserves various functions impacted by mental health disorders. This minisymposium will describe newly elucidated roles of specific VTA cell populations in addiction, reward, aversion, fear and sleep.

Grid-Like Hexadirectional Modulation of Neural Activity in Humans – Chair: Nanthia Suthana, PhD

23rd October 2019, 8:30 – 11:00am, Room S100BC

Neurons have been shown to increase in firing rate with a hexagonal grid pattern as an animal navigates an environment. Recently, studies show that population signals of neural activity (i.e., LFP and fMRI) exhibit similar hexadirectional modulation in humans. These findings from human grid-like oscillatory and fMRI signals will be discussed as well as how they relate to each other and rodent studies. This minisymposium will also focus on how findings relate to spatial navigation and memory in humans.

Artificial Intelligence and Neuroscience: From Neural Dynamics to Artificial Agents – Chair: Maneesha Sahani, PhD

21st October 2019, 8:30 – 11:00am, Room S406A

Machine learning research is advancing at a fast pace, with substantial impacts on neuroscience. Data-analytic approaches have helped to uncover and characterize dynamical structure in neural population activity, while artificial networks have provided insights into representations and computations in the brain. This minisymposium will explore topics at the intersection of machine learning and neuroscience, demonstrating recent advances and how both fields can benefit from a close interaction.

BRAIN Initiative: Cutting-Edge Tools and Resources for the Community – Chair: Walter J. Koroshetz, MD

19th October 2019, 1:30 – 4:00pm, Room S406A

A core principle of the BRAIN Initiative is to develop and share novel technologies, tools, methods, and resources to advance understanding of healthy and disease brain states. This minisymposium features BRAIN-funded investigators who are driving forward toward this goal; it will inform and educate the community about opportunities and applications of their advances and encourage broader understanding of the methodological and technological advances developed as a part of the BRAIN Initiative.

Take a look at the full programme on the SfN website. You can download the Neuroscience 2019 app to plan and check your itinerary on your mobile device. If you're an early career scientist, here's our top 5 sessions for you at SfN.

And don’t forget to come and see the Scientifica team on booth #1355 during your visit!

Check out our Chicago restaurant guide and city information for more useful articles for Neuroscience 2019.

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