Top sessions to attend at the 2021 BNA Festival of Neuroscience

Top sessions to attend at the 2021 BNA Festival of Neuroscience

For the first time, the BNA Festival of Neuroscience is going virtual in 2021. Being hosted on a superb platform, this event promises to still be as interactive as possible, with a range of sessions and renowned speakers from a variety of disciplines.

We have picked some sessions that sound the most exciting. As all sessions are available online up to four months following the festival, if any sessions you attend clash or you can't attend a session, you can view it at a time convenient for you.

Plenary Sessions

Using cerebral organoids to discover human-specific mechanisms of brain development - Professor Jürgen Knoblich.

Tuesday 13th April, 11:20 – 12:20

The human brain is unique in size and complexity, but also the source of some of the most devastating human diseases. While many of these disorders have been successfully studied in model organisms, recent experiments have emphasized unique features that cannot easily be modelled in animals. Cerebral organoids derived from patients suffering from neuro-developmental disease can recapitulate the developmental defects leading to those diseases and allow us to disentangle the mechanistic complexity of disorders like Epilepsy and Autism. Our new data demonstrate that by studying those defects, we can gain unique insights into the development of the human cortex that cannot be made in rodent model organisms.

Building cortical networks: from molecules to function - Professor Beatriz Rico.

Tuesday 13th April, 13:00 - 14:00.

In our day life, animal behaviours rely in a very precise connectivity between neurons in the brain that can be modulated by experience. In the mammalian cerebral cortex these connections reach an extraordinary complexity. The remarkable diversity and connectivity patterns of cortical interneurons place them in a unique position to orchestrate functionally relevant circuit-specific roles and critically shape cortical function. Consistently, GABAergic dysfunction has been implicated in several neurological and psychiatric disorders. How are these cortical circuitries built? How do they respond to activity and what happens when their development fails? are questions that we are addressing in my laboratory. We have identified cell-specific molecular signatures that are used by the interneurons during early wiring and underlie the specification of different patterns of connectivity and function.

New genetic therapies for neurodegeneration - Professor Sarah J Tabrizi.

Thursday 15th April, 13:00 - 14:00.

There are no effective disease-modifying therapies for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s (AD), Parkinson’s (PD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Huntington’s disease (HD). Huntington’s disease (HD) is a devastating autosomal dominantly inherited neurodegenerative disease and the genetic predictability of HD provides an opportunity for early therapeutic intervention many years before overt symptom onset and at a time when reversal or prevention of neural dysfunction may still be possible. As HD is monogenetic, fully penetrant, and characterised by a long premanifest phase, it is emerging as a potential model for studying therapeutic intervention in other neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease where no preclinical diagnostic tests exist. Understanding of HD pathogenesis is evolving, and I will present an overview of important approaches in development for targeting mutant HTT DNA and RNA (Tabrizi et al Neuron 2019), the cause of HD pathogenesis, and the translational pathway from bench to clinic for a HTT targeting antisense oligonucleotide (Tabrizi et al New England Journal of Medicine 2019, Tabrizi, Science 2020) which is now in phase 3 studies. This study was the first to demonstrate antisense-mediated protein suppression in patients with a neurodegenerative disease.

DNA damage and repair in the brain, throughout life - Professor Fred Gage.

Thursday 15th April, 16:00 – 17:00.

In this closing plenary lecture, Professor Fred Gage will explore where in the genome DNA damage and repair occur as well as how extensively these events are distributed throughout the genome. He will discuss how the DNA repair machinery makes non-random choices as to which DNA damaged events to repair. These findings are related to cell fate and cell survival.


Protein spread and seeding in neurodegenerative diseases.

Monday 12th April, 09:00 - 10:20.

This symposium covers the pathology, seeding and spreading of tau, alpha-synuclein and prion proteins.

Non-neuronal cells in neurological disease.

Wednesday 14th April, 14:40 – 16:00.

Topics covered include:

  • Astrocytes and brain endothelial cells at the interface of brain and periphery.
  • How do astrocytes sculpt neuronal circuits?
  • Single-cell analysis of neurovascular biology reveals novel cell types and their roles.
  • Microglia-synapse interaction in Alzheimer's Disease.

Dynamics of decision-making and metacognition.

Monday 12th April, 14:40 – 16:00.

Talk titles TBC

Embodied brains: Clinical implications of the neural basis of self.

Wednesday 14th April, 9:00 – 12:00.

  • Taking the pulse of social cognition: Interoception, self-awareness and alteroception
  • Revealing others' bodies in one's brain: an ERP method to examine sensorimotor activity during visual processing of body-related information
  • Metabody: Updating belies about the interoceptive and exteroceptive body in anorexia nervosa
  • Heart-brain interactions in first episode psychosis.

Interfaces between neuroscience and artificial intelligence.

Thursday 15th April, 14:40-16:00.

  • Predicting behavioural responses from whole-brain neural activity
  • Modelling plasticity in neural networks
  • The Disentangling Brain: From Neuroscience to Machine Learning and Back
  • Efficient Spiking Neural Network Simulations.

The neuroscience of cannabinoids: Clinical and molecular insights.

Monday 12th April, 14:40 – 16:00.

Find out more about:

  • Non-psychotropic cannabinoids in medicinal use
  • Cannabinoids efficacy in the treatment of epilepsies
  • Preclinical evidence for the efficacy of cannabidiol in epilepsy treatment and insights to mechanisms of action of cannabidiol
  • Other cannabinoids in the treatment of neurological disorder.

The use of neuro-technology the clinical assessment and treatment of Parkinson's.

Tuesday 13th April, 14:40 – 16:00.

This session covers:

  • Use of wearable technology in the assessment of Parkinson’s
  • Vagus nerve stimulation for improving neural control of gait in Parkinson’s Disease (AdVaNSING-PD)
  • Advances in the use of vestibular stimulation to treat Parkinson’s
  • A novel working partnership to overcome the challenges of treating tremor.

From stem cells to whole animals: the scope and appraisal of research models in vitro and in vivo.

Monday 12th April, 9:00 – 10:20.

  • Using brain organoids to reveal mechanisms of human brain size determination
  • Stem cells, organoids and Alzheimer's disease
  • Using pluripotent stem cells to model and treat Parkinson's disease
  • Using genomically humanised mice to understand human neurodegenerative disorders
  • What can (and cannot) be learned from animal behavioural models of complex human neuronal disorders?

AI and machine learning in neuroimaging: challenges, opportunities and pitfalls.

Wednesday 14th April, 14:40 – 16:00.

  • Brain MRI and machine learning for predicting progression of Alzheimer's disease
  • Longitudinal data: Machine learning applied to follow-up MR imaging in high grade glioma
  • Artificial Naturalism: Coevolving Pathology and AI
  • Digital Pathology: Explainable AI systems to aid clinicians diagnose brain tumours

Gene regulatory mechanisms underlying neural fate decisions.

Tuesday 13th April, 9:00 – 10:20.

  • Deciphering the epigenetic code of neurogenesis
  • Regulation of the transition from developmental to adult neurogenesis
  • Giving more neurons to the brain, from the womb to the grave
  • Genetic evolution of cerebral cortex size determinants

Ketamine as a treatment for depression and alcohol use disorders.

Thursday 15th April, 14:40 – 16:00.

  • Effects of ketamine in rodents: reward and depression
  • Preventing relapse in alcoholism with ketamine?
  • Maladaptive memory rewriting as a therapeutic mechanism for NMDA receptor antagonists
  • Ketamine modulates subcortical brain activity during the feedback phase of the monetary incentive delay task

The potential for deep brain stimulation in neuropsychiatry: mechanistic biomarkers and treatment.

Wednesday 14th April, 9:00 – 10:20.

  • Prevention of compulsive behaviours by closed-loop optogenetic stimulation
  • Subthalamic nucleus oscillatory activity as a predictive marker of vulnerability to addiction: a basis for a surgical treatment of addiction

Advances in studying the dynamics of human motor plasticity.

Monday 12th April, 9:00 – 10:20.

  • Developing new solutions for studying brain dynamics during movement
  • Novel aspects of human motor activity: from 3D beta burst events to low gamma activity
  • Changes in cortical dyanmics during recovery after stroke
  • Developing neurophysiologically-informed neuromodulation for motor learning and recovery

Fundamental mechanisms of learning and memory revealed by model invertebrate systems.

Monday 12th April, 14:40-16:00.

  • Cellular mechanisms of memory interference and generalization in Lymnaea
  • New insights into the formation of protein-synthesis dependent memories after single-trial appetitive conditioning in the honeybee
  • The unfolding complexity of habituation, the simplest form of learning
  • Insulin signaling and memory formation in Drosophila


Tips and tricks to improve your patch clamp experiments

Tuesday 13th April 2021, 14:00 - 14:40

Join a panel of electrophysiology experts from Scientifica and labs across the globe who will share their tips to help you improve your patch clamp experiments. Make this notoriously tricky technique easier and become more efficient at patching cells, improving the speed and quality of your data collection.

Speakers include Scientifica's Dr. Craig Blomely, Dr. Rodrigo Bammann and Dr. Marco Navarro, along with Dr. Elisa Galliano, University of Cambridge, Dr. Virginia Hawkins, Manchester Metropolitan University, Dr. Gillian Matthews, University of Sheffield, Dr. Paul Chadderton, University of Bristol and Dr. Brian Mathur, University of Maryland.

We can't wait to see you there!

Teaching Neuroscience

Thursday 15th April, 9:00 – 10:20

Teaching neuroscience topics to undergraduate students can be highly rewarding, but also quite daunting as it frequently involves highly complex concepts that students find challenging.

In this workshop we will share some of the ideas, techniques and tools that we have developed and used over the last few years. These will include our experience with designing and using data handling exercises and problem based questions to teach not just neuroscience, but also transferable skills, which is important to prepare students for a broad range of ‘real life’ experiences, especially as not all our students will become practicing neuroscientists (Langston: ‘How to train your neuroscientist for a life less ordinary’).

How to improve translation between industry and academia in neuroscience?

Tuesday 13th April, 9:00 – 11:20

Attending this workshop will give superb opportunity into gaining insights into the key factors inhibiting effective translation of research between academia and industry, identifying how to achieve successful translation, and creating meaningful exchange of ideas with key individuals, companies and organisations who are experts in this important aspect of neuroscience research.

Steps towards decolonising teaching and learning in neuroscience

Tuesday 13th April, 14:40 – 16:00

Decolonising teaching and learning in neuroscience is much discussed amongst students, researchers and lecturers, but at present there is a great deal of uncertainty about what decolonising actually means, why it’s important, how to achieve it, and whether neuroscience even needs it.

How do we, as a neuroscience community, want neuroscientists of the future to consider and approach ethnicity? How can the curriculum be shaped to ensure a more diverse neuroscience? What tools, tips, or platforms can we use to share experiences, knowledge, and best practice to mean the community is truly inclusive?

This session will invite delegates to join panellists on an exploration and discussion around decolonising neuroscience teaching and learning.

Take a look at the full programme on the BNA website. All sessions are available online up to four months following the festival, so if you can't make any of the sessions, you can view them at a time convenient for you.

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