Show Preview: Explore the brain and nervous system at Neuroscience 2016

After visiting Chicago last year, the Society for Neuroscience brings its annual meeting to the warmer climes of Southern California

Jeffrey Bouley
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Society for Neuroscience 46th Annual Meeting
Neuroscience 2016
November 12-16, 2016
San Diego Convention Center
Explore the brain and nervous system at Neuroscience 2016
After visiting Chicago last year, SfN brings its annual meeting to the warmer climes of Southern California
SAN DIEGO—If you haven’t already registered for the 46th Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) and made travel plans to get to and stay in San Diego this November, there’s a good chance you’re not going. But there’s always the possibility you might want to change your mind, and even if not, we at DDNews want to give you an idea of why you might want to reconsider that choice next year if your work delves into the neuroscience realm.
Plus, we want to give those who are already committed to attend an idea of what they’ll be getting for their time and money.
When asked what is different, new or expanded for Neuroscience 2016 compared to last year, SfN President Dr. Hollis Cline tells DDNews, “Every year the Society for Neuroscience seeks to grow the value of our meeting by enhancing our programming to meet the evolving needs of the field. For example, this year SfN added several more sessions designed for our clinician-scientist attendees and anyone interested in the fascinating process that leads from basic science discoveries to the clinical applications.”
Since 2005, the “Meet the Experts” series at the SfN annual meetings has provided an opportunity for students and postdoctoral researchers to engage experienced neuroscientists in an informal dialogue on a variety of topics. That tradition continues this year.
During each 75-minute session, experts describe their research techniques and accomplishments in what SfN calls “a personal context that offers participants a behind-the-scenes look at factors influencing their work.” At Neuroscience 2013, SfN began recording the live event and has made each session available online as a podcast since then.
But there is a twist this year, with the addition of a new “Meet the Clinician Expert” event that will give attendees a glimpse into the research techniques and motivating influences behind one expert clinician’s career, Cline explains.
In addition, she says, “a new series of Basic-Translational-Clinical Roundtables will feature panels of scientists discussing three areas of translational research: neuroinflammation and psychiatric disorders, medications development for cannabis use disorder and critical topics in pain therapeutics.”
These new events complement SfN’s already-established Clinical Neuroscience Lecture, which Cline notes will this year focus on “Deciphering the Dynamics of the Unconscious Brain Under General Anesthesia.”
Obviously, the SfN annual meetings serve the needs and interests of a wide variety of people in the neuroscience realm, not just those who work on diagnostics or in the discovery through clinical trials pipeline we cover at DDNews. But there is much to interest our readers at Neuroscience 2016 or any of the other SfN meetings.
“Basic science feeds the drug development pipeline and lays the foundation for every new drug that appears on the shelves of our local pharmacies,” Cline stresses. “Neuroscientists play crucial roles in every stage of drug development, from basic science research to preclinical to clinical. Thus, Neuroscience 2016 offers a multitude of events for those interested in drug development and related efforts.”
Specifically, she notes, two of SfN’s large lectures should be of interest, as they focus on new drug development to combat pain and recent progress and challenges of using immunotherapy for neurodegenerative disorders.
“In addition, I would highly recommend two of our professional development workshops. During the ‘Path to Translation for the Inspired’ event, panelists will share valuable lessons learned in translational research, from bench to bedside, and afterward NIH staff will discuss funding opportunities available to enable translational research in areas related to neuroscience. The ‘Careers in Making Medicines: Translating Basic Research Into Pharmaceutical Development’ workshop will highlight career opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry and provide perspectives from preclinical and clinical experts on how basic and innovative biology can be turned into a drug discovery program.”
Speaker selection is always an important factor in planning events like these, but even with a large number of qualified people to talk about myriad topics, one in particular stands out to Cline.
“Neuroscience research plays a key role in enhancing our knowledge of the possible causes and treatments for psychiatric diseases and disorders,” she says by way of introduction. “I have invited Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organization, to speak about how the neuroscience and mental health fields can collaborate to take advantage of the great potential for neuroscience advances to benefit global mental health.
“I have also selected ‘Learning Across the Lifespan’ as the theme for this year’s Presidential Special Lecture series and have chosen renowned scientists to present their work on how genes and circuits orchestrate complex behavior in Drosophila brains, the neurobiology of the adolescent and young adult brain, normal and abnormal visual system development and tuning auditory circuits for vocal communication. This series of lectures highlights an important topic in biomedical research and demonstrates the contributions of basic science discovery to this research area.”
We probed a bit to find out what might be new next year, but if there are any specific plans for changes and additions, Cline wasn’t giving up the secrets. However, she did note, “For those already looking forward to Neuroscience 2017, I encourage you to collaborate with your colleagues during this year’s meeting on submissions for symposia and minisymposia proposals. Submissions for Neuroscience 2017 proposals will open during Neuroscience 2016. With thousands of your peers from around the world all in one place, Neuroscience 2016 is the perfect place to begin planning together how we will share and celebrate neuroscience research next year at Neuroscience 2017.”

About Neuroscience 2016
SfN invites you to join more than 30,000 colleagues from more than 80 countries at the world’s largest marketplace of ideas and tools for global neuroscience.
The society says its annual meeting is an unmatched venue for sharing great science, where attendees can learn about emerging and unpublished findings and share their own, explore professional development opportunities and discuss some of the most pressing and exciting topics in scientific publishing, academia, advocacy and public education.
Neuroscience 2016 events will include:
  • Featured and special lectures by world-renowned scientists from around the globe
  • More than 15,000 abstracts sharing new findings
  • Symposia and minisymposia with comprehensive coverage of vital neuroscience research topics
  • More than 600 exhibitors showcasing new tools, technologies and publishing opportunities
  • Dozens of professional development, advocacy and networking events
  • More than 100 satellite events being held in conjunction with the annual meeting
To navigate all of this, meeting attendees can use SfN’s newly enhanced Neuroscience Meeting Planner and mobile app to search for events of interest or to view preset curated itineraries, which group together events based on topic, such as molecular neuropharmacology. For more information, visit the Society for Neuroscience at

Taking stock of the symposia
The symposium events at Neuroscience 2016 fall into eight thematic areas: Development; Neural Excitability, Synapses and Glia; Neurodegenerative Disorders and Injury; Sensory Systems; Motor Systems; Integrative Physiology and Behavior; Motivation and Emotion; and Cognition.
Each symposium contains four speakers who present during the 2.5-hour session.
In addition, Neuroscience 2016 will also feature minisymposia that accommodate six speakers for each such presentation, who give shorter talks over a 2.5-hour session.
As SfN explains, “Whereas well-known, top researchers are typically chosen as speakers in regular symposia, minisymposia are geared to a generally younger cross-section of neuroscientists.”
The SfN Program Committee created the minisymposium format so that junior investigators (including senior postdocs and junior faculty) have an opportunity to present exciting and cutting-edge research in a formal setting to a broad audience.
Theme A: Development
Neuronal Cytoskeleton 2.0: A Revised View of an Ancient Edifice
Sunday, Nov. 13
Recent advances in super-resolution, live imaging and genetics have revealed a remarkable cytoskeletal organization in neurons, essentially revising canonical models. The goal of this symposium will be to inform the audience of these exciting new developments, present ongoing research and foster cross-talk between participants.
Tuesday, Nov. 15
The aim of the symposium is to discuss the role of epigenetic mechanisms of neuronal diversity, the plasticity of neuronal networks and their alteration during various neurological disorders.
Making Serotonergic Neurons: From Mouse to Human
Wednesday, Nov. 16
This symposium will highlight how knowledge on the development of mouse serotonergic neurons informs the strategies to generate human serotonergic neurons by directed differentiation of pluripotent stem cells or by transdifferentiation of fibroblasts.
Theme B: Neural Excitability, Synapses and Glia
Synaptic Actin Dysregulation: A Convergent Mechanism of Mental Disorders?
Saturday, Nov. 12
This symposium will discuss recent experimental findings that strongly support genetic evidence linking the synaptic cytoskeleton to conditions such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders.
The Ultrastructural Basis of Synaptic Transmission and Plasticity
Wednesday, Nov. 16
This symposium will explore the ultrastructural and proteinaceous basis of synapse function and the defined plasticity states involved in learning and memory.
Theme C: Neurodegenerative Disorders and Injury
Autophagy-Lysosomal Mechanism in Neurodegeneration
Saturday, Nov. 12
This symposium will present recent advances in autophagy research in neurons and major neurodegenerative diseases. It will provide insight into molecular mechanisms of autophagy control, particularly on subtypes of autophagy that regulate neuronal homeostasis via the clearance of disease protein aggregates and damaged mitochondria.
Microtubule and Tau-Based Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Brain Disorders
Monday, Nov. 14
This symposium will focus on microtubules in different cell types for a better understanding of brain function in health and disease, and toward improved diagnostics and therapeutics.
Proteoglycans in Neural Development and Disease
Tuesday, Nov. 15
This symposium will highlight recent developments in identification of receptors and signal transduction mechanisms used by heparan sulfate and chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans and how they are involved in development, plasticity, disease and the injury response in the nervous system.
Theme D: Sensory Systems
Current Topics in Chronic Pain: From Molecules to Medicine
Monday, Nov. 14
Recent studies have elucidated novel molecular and cellular players that drive chronic pain in animal models and human conditions. This symposium will review these advances and discuss their implications for the diagnosis and treatment of chronic pain patients.
Mechanisms of Object Organization in the Visual Cortex
Monday, Nov. 14
This symposium will provide a comprehensive picture of recent findings on object-based coding at low and intermediate cortical levels (V1-V2-V4), its possible mechanisms and its hypothetical role in vision.
Neuroscience of Music: Novel Discoveries and Their Implications in the Understanding of Music and the Brain
Sunday, Nov. 13
This symposium will highlight the neurological mechanisms and significance of music used in the clinical setting, neuroeducation and daily experiences.
Theme E: Motor Systems
New Developments in Understanding the Complexity of Human Speaking
Sunday, Nov. 13
In this symposium, speakers will highlight major experimental advances in speech motor control research and discuss emerging findings about the complexity of speech motor cortex organization and its large-scale networks.
Facilitation of Recovery of Motor Function After Paralysis With Noninvasive Spinal Cord Stimulation
Monday, Nov. 14
This symposium describes changes of the physiological state of spinal networks using noninvasive spinal cord stimulation combined with step training in an exoskeleton.
Spike Timing Codes for Motor Control
Tuesday, Nov. 15
This session will present emerging work from a wide range of species (insects, songbirds and mice) showing that brains can control behavior by precisely regulating spike timing patterns.
The Neural Basis of Adaptive Motor Control in the Cerebellum
Wednesday, Nov. 16
The cerebellum is critical for learning to make accurate movements, yet the neural mechanisms of how it learns this adaptive control remain poorly understood. This symposium will consider this puzzle by attempting to answer three questions, regarding what Purkinje cells and cells at deep cerebellar nuclei encode, what inferior olive neurons that project onto these cells encode and how Purkinje cells learn to alter their encoding in response to error information from the inferior olive.
Theme F: Integrative Physiology and Behavior
Physical Activity Impacting Neuroplasticity in Aging and Disease
Sunday, Nov. 13
This symposium will present translational research investigating physical activity-induced structural and functional alterations in brain circuits and synaptic function and potential mechanisms underlying activity-dependent plasticity in aging and disease.
Getting Down to Business: Identifying Epigenetic Mechanisms of Behaviors Within Discrete Cell Populations
Wednesday, Nov. 16
Expert speakers will describe their latest studies on novel epigenetic mechanisms, including miRNAs, nucleosome remodeling and unique histone modifications, and demonstrate their role in specific behavioral outcomes.
Theme G: Motivation and Emotion                 
Advances in Noninvasive Brain Stimulation Along the Space-Time Continuum
Monday, Nov. 14
This symposium will highlight several studies that explore the importance and physiological relevance of specific spatial or temporal patterns using different forms of noninvasive brain stimulation.
Moving From Pavlovian ‘Fear’ Conditioning to Active Avoidance
Tuesday, Nov. 15
This session will detail progress in the area of the active avoidance paradigm (AA) and discuss the role of AA in human anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The Lateral Habenula Circuitry: Reward Processing and Cognitive Control
Tuesday, Nov. 15
This symposium will present novel concepts from animal studies of the lateral habenula that have been recently tested with causal methods, with a goal to dissect the role of specific inputs and outputs of the LHb in processing of reward and aversion.
Neural Basis of Social Rewards and Group Decisions: From Scanners to the Real World
Wednesday, Nov. 16
This symposium will highlight new advances in neuroimaging, focusing on the role of reward and motivation in social perception, interpersonal communication, intergroup relations and mass prosocial behavior. Speakers will also describe novel techniques and trends poised to extend the frontiers of neuroscience and account for social preferences and behaviors in naturalistic settings.
Theme H: Cognition
Is the Prefrontal Cortex Special? Working Memory Across the Cortical Mantle: From Single Units to Neural Ensembles
Saturday, Nov. 12
Working memory (WM) is one of the pillars of cognition. This symposium will offer an updated view of WM coding in primates, with emphasis in the prefrontal cortex. Experts will discuss WM coding in different brain areas of macaques, how the macaque prefrontal cortex encodes WM across the life span, how the prefrontal cortex integrates WMs from different modalities and how to bridge WM studies in macaques and humans.
Fronto-Subthalamic Circuits for Control of Action and Cognition
Monday, Nov. 14
This session will report new findings about the cognitive functions and computational properties of the circuit linking frontal cortex and subthalamic nucleus of the basal ganglia.

Featured Lectures
Albert and Ellen Grass Lecture
Natural Products as Probes of the Pain Pathway: From Physiology to Atomic Structure
David J Julius, Ph.D.
The study of somatosensation, nociception and pain has undergone a revolution with the application of molecular genetic, biochemical and biophysical methods. With these approaches, investigators have begun to identify molecules, cells and circuits that underlie stimulus detection, perception and maladaptive processes. Together, these studies are providing an intellectual and technical foundation for developing new classes of analgesic agents.
David Kopf Lecture on Neuroethics
Reforming Forensic Science: Some Insights From Research on Vision and Memory
Thomas D Albright, Ph.D.     
In its 2009 report, “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward,” the National Academy of Sciences identified a number of significant weaknesses in forensic science, which have contributed to wrongful convictions and have threatened public confidence in our criminal justice system. Advances in understanding of brain systems for visual sensation, perception and memory can help shape forensic reform by illuminating the relevant sensory and cognitive processes, their limitations and factors that can improve human performance in a forensic context.
Dialogues Between Neuroscience and Society
Global Mental Health and Neuroscience: Challenges and Opportunities
Shekhar Saxena, M.D.
Global mental health is slowly but steadily coming out of the shadows. It is benefiting from advances in neuroscience, but not adequately. The potential is much greater. The lecture will present a background of the current state of mental health in the world and then focus on how a closer collaboration between mental health and neuroscience could enhance knowledge and improve population health. Examples from the areas of autism, substance dependence, psychoses and dementia will help illustrate this potential.
Fred Kavli History of Neuroscience Lecture
Sixty Years of Research on Neurotransmitter Release in the Light of Recent Results from the Calyx of Held Synapse
Erwin Neher, Ph.D.
In the 1950s, Sir Bernhard Katz and co-workers laid the foundation for our present understanding of neurotransmitter release and its short-term plasticity. Their terms “units available” (for release) and “units responding to one impulse” have been replaced with terms like vesicle pools, release probability and quantal content. Since then, the description of certain aspects of short-term plasticity has gained considerable complexity. Research on the calyx of Held has described this complexity, including heterogeneity of vesicle pools, refractoriness of release sites and a phenomenon called “superpriming.” Nevertheless, this talk will argue that the original Katz view is still a useful framework on which to build.
Peter and Patricia Gruber Lecture
Random Walk in Neurobiology
Mu-ming Poo, Ph.D.
Beginning as a biophysicist studying diffusion of membrane proteins, I stumbled upon many interesting problems in cellular neurobiology, including neuronal polarization, axon guidance, synaptogenesis and synaptic plasticity. An underlying theme in all these processes is random diffusion of proteins confined or even directed by localization mechanisms, leading to cellular topography critical for neuronal functions. As it turned out, my own career path resembled random walk, influenced and sometimes directed by interactions with my students, postdocs and colleagues.
Presidential Special Lecture
Limitations on Visual Development: Neurons and Behavior
Lynne Kiorpes, Ph.D.
Vision develops over many months in primate infants. The neural mechanisms that limit visual function are not fully understood. During development, neurons in visual cortex are more sensitive than would be expected based on visual behavior. Abnormal early experience creates a specific disorder—amblyopia—which permanently disrupts vision. Here also, the sensitivity of neurons in visual cortex exceeds behavior. This talk will describe neural limits on normal and abnormal postnatal visual development based on studies of brain and behavior in human and nonhuman primates.
Presidential Special Lecture
Neurobiology of the Adolescent and Young Adult Brain Reveals Unique Strengths and Vulnerabilities
Frances E Jensen, M.D.
Experimental and human evidence reveal that adolescence is a paradoxical state, with enhanced synaptic plasticity, yet incomplete myelination and regional connectivity. Full maturity is not reached until the third decade. Adolescent brain neuroscience impacts our understanding of patterns of onset of psychiatric illness, the long-term effects of exposure to substances of abuse and stress and also explains their advantage in learning and memory and why they exhibit “signature” behaviors such as impulsivity, emotional liability, altered sleep cycle and susceptibility to addiction.
Presidential Special Lecture
Toward Whole-body Connectome in Drosophila
Ann-Shyn Chiang, Ph.D.
Our brains receive information from sensory neurons about our external environment and internal organs. To understand how the brain processes information and initiates motor outputs, scientists are constructing complete wiring diagrams called “connectomes” that map all neural connections in the brain and body. Taking Drosophila melanogaster as an example, this lecture will address challenges in building whole-body connectomes and how that knowledge may help us better understand normal function and treat disease.
Presidential Special Lecture
Tuning Auditory Circuits for Vocal Communication
Sarah M.N. Woolley, Ph.D.
Social communication reflects the coordinated development of sensory and motor circuits around signals that convey information. The young brain, learning to communicate with hearing and voice, builds auditory and vocal motor circuits that are functionally coupled to perceive and produce similar signals. This lecture will describe progress made using songbirds to understand how species’ identity dictates the capacities and limits of vocal learning, how early experience shapes auditory and vocal circuits and how species and learning combine to map auditory tuning onto vocal acoustics.

Professional Development Workshops
Professional Development Workshops at the SfN annual meeting are categorized by tracks to help attendees quickly identify the workshops that are of the greatest interest to them.
Career Paths On and Off the Bench Track
Success in Academia: A Focus on Strategies for Women
Tracy L Bale, Ph.D.
Saturday, Nov. 12
Careers in Making Medicines: Translating Basic Research Into Pharmaceutical Development
Fiona E Randall, Ph.D.
Saturday, Nov. 12
Biomedical Education and Career Options for Scientists (PhD) and Physician-Scientists (MD-PhD)
Lique M Coolen, Ph.D.
Saturday, Nov. 12
Career Skills Track
A Guide to Publishing in Journals
Ross Hildrew
Sunday, Nov. 13
Stand Up and Be Heard: Navigating Career Communications
Fiona E. Randall, Ph.D.
Sunday, Nov. 13
Successful Career Advancement Through Networking: Is It Who You Know?
Rebecca Shansky, Ph.D.
Sunday, Nov. 13
Meeting Expectations: NIH Review Criterion on Scientific Rigor and Reproducibility
Cheryl L Sisk, Ph.D.
Sunday, Nov. 13
Optimizing the Mentor-Trainee Relationship
Lique M Coolen, Ph.D.
Sunday, Nov. 13
How to Present Science Using Visual Tools
Scott M. Thompson, Ph.D.
Monday, Nov. 14
Funding Track
NIH Funding and You: A Practical Guide to Successfully Navigating Your Research Training Career
Stephen Korn, Ph.D.
Saturday, Nov. 12
Path to Translation for the Inspired
Amir Tamiz, Ph.D.
Sunday, Nov. 13
Teaching Neuroscience Track
Diverse Career Trajectories in Neuroscience: Helping Trainees Chart a Course for Success
Elisabeth J Van Bockstaele, Ph.D.
Saturday, Nov. 12
Creating, Sustaining, and Enhancing Undergraduate Neuroscience Programs
Janet M Finlay, Ph.D.
Saturday, Nov. 12
Teaching Neuroscience With Big Data
Richard F. Olivo, Ph.D.
Monday, Nov. 14
It’s a Win-Win: Effectively Engaging Undergraduates in Research
Donita L Robinson, Ph.D.
Monday, Nov. 14

SfN support for nonhuman primate research
A New York Times article in September penned by John P. Gluck titled “Regretting My Animal Research” laid out a personal account of his second thoughts as to whether animal research is ever ethical, with a consideration of the use of primates in particular.
Mar Sanchez, chair of SfN’s Committee on Animals in Research, wrote a letter to the New York Times editor in response, defending nonhuman primate research and its contributions to medical breakthroughs, as follows:
Dr. Gluck may have second thoughts, but he does not speak for the many people who are benefiting, or one day could benefit, from medical breakthroughs that are a result of crucial, carefully regulated research with nonhuman primates.
Further, he does not represent the many caring and committed scientists who do not question their decision to study primate models to save lives.
Although accounting for less than one-half of 1 percent of all animal research, nonhuman primate research has resulted in life-changing medical advances for our most serious public health challenges. As an important example, patients with devastating illnesses like Parkinson’s disease now see marked improvement with deep brain stimulation made possible through primate research.
We scientists do indeed take very seriously our commitment and obligation for the responsible and compassionate use of these animals. The strict regulations established by oversight agencies are fully embraced by researchers and institutions. Based on fact—and compassion for both people and animals—we know that this is ultimately profoundly lifesaving work.
SfN announces winners of 2016 Brain Awareness Video Contest
In mid-September, SfN announced the winners of the annual Brain Awareness Video Contest, with winning topics covering synesthesia, language processing and “DressGate.” Contest participants work with an SfN member to produce an educational video that explains a neuroscience concept in a way that a broad audience can understand. Scientists evaluated the video submissions for accuracy as well as creativity, and the top 10 videos will join more than 1,000 resources on the brain and nervous system available on
1st Place: “Hearing Red, Tasting Blue: When the Senses Mix!”
Akshay Balaji, a Northern Virginia high school student, won $1,000 and a trip to this year’s SfN annual meeting in San Diego for his video on what happens when the senses mix. Balaji worked with SfN member Monica Gertz of George Mason University to submit the video.
2nd Place: “Your Babbling Brain”
Flora Vanlangendonck and Ruben van Bergen of Radboud University in the Netherlands won $500 for their video on the history of different neuroscience discoveries related to language. They worked with SfN member Atsuko Takashima of Radboud University.
3rd Place: “Unlocking DressGate”
Nevada high schoolers Morgan Heath-Powers, Nikolai Oh and Roshan Panda won $250 for their video on the differences in visual perception that lead to the internet phenomenon of the white gold dress. They worked with SfN member Amy Altick of the University of Nevada-Reno.
Honorable Mention: “The Nose Knows: Smell, Memory, and Emotion”
This video by Maryland high schoolers Juliana Lu-Yang and Anna Barth explains how something as simple as smell can trigger big memories. They worked with SfN member Raymond Scott Turner of Georgetown University.

Jeffrey Bouley

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