Top sessions at BNA2017

Top sessions at BNA2017

From 10 – 13 April the best of British Neuroscience will be on show at the BNA2017 Festival of Neuroscience. This time the conference is taking place at the ICC in Birmingham. As one of the largest neuroscience meetings in Europe this year, BNA2017 offers an incredible opportunity for neuroscientists from around the world to discuss their research across both disciplinary boundaries and national borders.

In this piece, Scientifica has picked some of the best sessions from what is sure to be an excellent four days of science. For more information about the conference visit the BNA website.


All this year’s plenary lectures deserve to be mentioned on this list, but we have managed to choose three that stand out. Saying that, if you haven’t seen Professor May-Britt Moser or Professor Sarah Jayne Blakemore give talks on their research, both are worth seeing.

When memory and motivation fade in brain disorders – Professor Masud Husain, 18:10 – 19:20, Monday 10 April

Professor Husain’s lecture will look at examples of forgetfulness and apathy in neurological diseases, like Parkinson’s disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

Recent findings suggest that it might be possible to apply principles and techniques developed to study memory and motivation in healthy brains to unlock what’s going wrong in brain disorders and provide ways to detect these changes early.

Promising new developments are beginning to suggest that it might be possible to modulate both memory and motivation in brain disorders.

Synaptic plasticity, memory, and molecules – Professor Graham Collingridge, 16:40 – 18:00, Tuesday 11 April

The winner of the 2016 Brain Prize looks at Long-term potentiation (LTP), firmly established as the most important model system for understanding the synaptic basis of learning and memory. In this talk, he examines the discovery of LTP, the role of NMDA receptors in its induction and the link between LTP and learning & memory.

Professor Collingridge will then discuss research investigating how errors in the molecular processes of synaptic plasticity contribute towards a large variety of brain disorders.

Genetic and optogenetic dissection of the central stress response and stress-linked psychiatric disorders – Professor Alon Chen, 11:20 – 12:20, Wednesday 12 April

Dysregulation of the physiological responses to stress can have severe psychological and physiological consequences, and there is substantial evidence to suggest that inappropriate regulation, disproportional intensity, or chronic and irreversible activation of the stress response is linked to the aetiology and pathophysiology of anxiety, depression and metabolic-related disorders.

Professor Chen’s research aims to elucidate the pathways by which stress is perceived, processed, and transduced into neuroendocrine and behavioural responses. His research team are using integrated molecular (genetics and epigenetics), biochemical, physiological and behavioural methods, with a focus on the generation of mutant mice models as an in vivo tool, to study the roles of specific stress-linked genes and brain circuits in coordinating the neuroendocrine, autonomic and behavioural responses to stressful challenges.


S7: Retrosplenial cortex - a gateway to episodic memories? – Chair: Dr Anna Mitchell, Co-chair: Professor Kate Jeffery, 16:20 – 18:00, Monday 10 April

This symposium will explore possible functions of RSC and will include talks from neuroscientists spanning early, mid and senior career levels, all of whom use many techniques including electrophysiology, behavioural/cognitive testing, neuroimaging and computational modelling to gather research evidence aimed at uncovering the critical role of the retrosplenial cortex in episodic memory.

Speaker 1: Dr Anna Mitchell

Neuroimaging of the primate brain without the retrosplenial cortex and its role in memory retention

Speaker 2: Dr Rafal Czajkowski

On the outskirts of the spatial memory map: retrosplenial cortex

Speaker 3: Professor Kate Jeffery

Dissociation of head direction cell reference frames in retrosplenial cortex

Speaker 4: Dr Andrew Nelson

Retrosplenial cortex and stimulus control

S15: Synaptic plasticity in physiological contexts – Chair: Dr Jack Mellor, Co-chair: Dr Tara Keck, 13:20 – 15:00, Tuesday 11 April

This symposium will explore the role of synaptic plasticity in key brain functions including the formation of neuronal ensembles and regulation of excitatory-inhibitory balance. These processes are critical for the efficient acquisition of new information and if disrupted can lead to a variety of cognitive disorders.

Speaker 1: Dr Tara Keck

Synaptic homeostatic mechanisms in mouse visual cortex

Speaker 2: Professor Thomas Oertner

Optogenetic STDP: shaping hippocampal networks through temporal correlations

Speaker 3: Dr Mark Sheffield

Dendrites, plasticity and spatial navigation

Speaker 4: Dr Jack Mellor

Neuromodulation of dendrites and synaptic plasticity

S16: Neuroscience informed education – Chair: Professor Paul Howard-Jones, Introduction Lia Commissar, 13:20 – 15:00, Tuesday 11 April

Our understanding of neuroscience can be applied to improving methods of education. The talks will include different components of a major initiative funded by the Wellcome Trust, which seeks to test different ways of applying our knowledge of brain function to the classroom.

Speaker 1: Dr Heidi Johansen-Berg

Fit to study

Speaker 2: Professor Usha Goswami

Reading, Phonology and the Brain

Speaker 3: Professor Michael Thomas

New initiatives in educational neuroscience

Speaker 4: Dr Katie Blakemore

Engaging the brain's reward system

S22: Information integration across the senses – Chair: Professor Uta Noppeney, 9:00 – 10:40, Wednesday 12 April

This interdisciplinary symposium will explore where and when multisensory integration emerges at subcortical and cortical levels based on evidence from electrophysiology and functional imaging. By spanning species and techniques, the speakers will bridge the gap between neural mechanisms, computational operations and behaviour to explore the functional consequences of multisensory integration. Then they will demonstrate how fundamental computational principles govern information integration across the senses to guide perceptual decisions.

Speaker 1: Professor Giandomenico Lannetti

A multimodal saliency-detection system for the body and the peripersonal space

Speaker 2: Dr Julian Keil

Multiple Stages of Multisensory Perception: Evidence from Local Cortical Oscillations and Functional Connectivity

Speaker 3: Dr Jennifer Bizley

Integrating sound and vision: can cross-modal interactions in auditory cortex influence auditory scene analysis

Speaker 4: Professor Uta Noppeney

To integrate or not to integrate: How the brain forms a representation of the world across audition and vision

S29: From channelopathies to synaptopathies – Chair: Dr Kirill Volynski, 13:20 – 15:00, Wednesday 12 April

This symposium includes four presentations that will describe recent advances in the understanding of cellular and molecular mechanisms of neurological disorders caused by dysfunction of synaptic proteins and ion channels. These range from autoimmune and monogenic channelopathies through tetanus and Parkinson's disease. The speakers describe a broad range of complementary experimental approaches including molecular genetics, biochemistry, cellular physiology, electrophysiology, ion channel biophysics and fluorescence imaging, applied to shed light on disease mechanisms and to identify new therapeutic targets.

Speaker 1: Professor Dimitri Kullmann

Inherited and acquired presynaptic channelopathies

Speaker 2: Dr Kinga Bercsenyi

Nidogens are therapeutic targets in the prevention of tetanus

Speaker 3: Professor Brigit Liss

Calcium modulation of D2 autoreceptors in context of Parkinson's disease

Speaker 4: Dr Kirill Volynski

Activity-dependent regulation of synaptic strength and cellular mechanisms of paroxysmal neurological disorders

Other sessions

SpE1: Cutting edge neuroscience – 13:00 – 14:40, Monday 10 April

30 rapid-fire poster talks, where selected poster abstracts are presented via short, three-minute talks, giving you the chance to raise awareness of their research and invite people to visit their posters.

W1: Getting grants - advice for young scientists – 9:00 – 10:40, Tuesday 11 April

A workshop in which major funders will present information about current schemes and provide information about better grant writing. A Q&A session will follow the presentations. Speakers:

  • Kate Adcock - Head of Neuroscience and Mental Health, MRC
  • Giovanna Lalli - Head of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Wellcome Trust
  • Alexandra Spittle - Peer Review Officer, BBSRC Science Delivery Group
  • Marianna D’Arco - Scheme Manager, Grants, Royal Society
  • Anbalakan Paramasivam - Senior Manager, UK Grants, Royal Society

W2: Beyond Academia – 9:00 – 10:40, Wednesday 12 April

A workshop for students and early-career researchers looking at alternatives to the academic research career pathway, e.g. working in the pharmaceutical industry, policy, education, academic administration and beyond.

  • Victoria Gill - BBC Science Correspondent
  • Gary Gilmour - Senior Research Scientist, Eli Lilly
  • Lucy Foss - Team Manager, Neuroscience and Mental Health, Wellcome Trust
  • Natasha Bray - Associate Editor, Nature Reviews Neuroscience
  • Kevin Cox - CEO, Imanova Ltd

SpE5: Breaking neuroscience - Chair: Jeff Dalley, Editor-in-Chief of Brain and Neuroscience Advances, 9:00 – 10:40, Thursday 13 April

We are excited to host this symposium featuring newly (or yet to be!) published research on a range of topics. Speakers:

Dr Christian Madry, 9:00 – 9:25

Microglial immune surveillance powered by potassium channels

Dr Zahid Padamsey, 9:25 – 9:50

Is glutamate release required for synaptic plasticity?

Dr Antonis Asiminas, 9:50 – 10:15

Sustained correction of associative learning deficits following brief, early treatment in a rat model of Fragile X Syndrome

Dr David Belin, 10:15 – 10:40

The psychological and neural basis of incentive habits: relevance for our understanding of addiction

DF1: How to engage with the public about your research – Chair: Mark Ungless, BNA Education & Engagement Secretary, 11:00 – 12:00, Thursday 13 April

  • Dean Burnett (Stand-up comedian and science writer)
  • Pete Etchells, (Science blog network coordinator for the Guardian, social media and writer)
  • Emma Robinson (BNA Public Engagement Award Winner 2016)
  • Graeme Henderson (How public engagement can directly impact your research)

DF2: Reproducibility in neuroscience – Chair: Stafford Lightman, BNA President-Elect, 11:00 – 12:00, Thursday 13 April

  • Candice Morey (Proponent of open data and preregistration, incoming chief editor of the Journal of Cognitive Psychology.)
  • Andrew Rice (Longstanding interest in improving internal and external validities of animal models; reducing susceptibility to experimental bias in the design, conduct, analysis and reporting of preclinical pain research; the utility of text mining/machine learning approaches to empower systematic review and meta-analysis.)
  • Richard Morey (Bayesian statistical methods to improve reproducibility; study pre-registration; a grassroots initiative to encourage sharing of data and materials by authors: see


There are three poster sessions (on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the conference), encompassing 12 themes, giving space for 750 poster presentations. The themes are:

  • Attention, motivation, behaviour
  • Sensory & motor systems
  • The neurobiology of stress
  • Neuronal, glial & cellular mechanisms
  • Novel treatments & translational neuroscience
  • Neurodegenerative disorders & ageing
  • Learning & memory
  • Genetics & epigenetics
  • Developmental neuroscience
  • Neuroendocrine & autonomic systems
  • Psychiatry & mental health
  • Methods and techniques
  • Other (e.g. history, teaching, outreach)

The poster abstracts will be posted on the BNA website shortly.

The full programme, including PDFs of each day’s schedule, is now available on the BNA website.

Enjoy the show!

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