Each year, SfN's Program Committee invites leading scientists to give lectures on hot topics in neuroscience. Lectures taking place during Neuroscience 2020 are listed below.
- Featured Lectures
- Theme A – Development
- Theme B – Neural Excitability, Synapses, and Glia
- Theme C – Neurodegenerative Disorders and Injury
- Theme D – Sensory Systems
- Theme E – Motor Systems
- Theme F – Integrative Physiology and Behavior
- Theme G – Motivation and Emotion
- Theme H – Cognition
- Theme I – Techniques
Albert and Ellen Grass Lecture — Circuits With Similar Performance Can Show Differential Resilience to Environmental Perturbation
Eve E. Marder, PhD
Computational and experimental results in neurons and small networks show that similar network function can result from disparate sets of parameters. Using the crab stomatogastric nervous system as a model, this lecture will examine the influence of these differences on differential resilience of individuals to a variety of perturbations and illustrate that neurons with many kinds of ion channels can smoothly move through different mechanisms in generating their activity patterns, thus extending their dynamic range.
David Kopf Neuroethics — The Law and Neuroprosthetics
Jennifer A. Chandler, JD, LLM
University of Ottawa
Neuroprostheses replace or enhance motor, sensory and mental functions through interactions with the nervous system, raising novel ethical and legal issues. The use of adaptive systems and machine learning expand the range of possible applications while clouding questions of control, ownership and responsibility. This lecture will consider issues related to ownership; design defects; freedom to or from use; responsibility; privacy; and the use of neural data derived from neuroprostheses.
History of Neuroscience — A New Department, a New Transmitter Compound, a War and a Movement — The 1960s to the Present of a Neurobiology Career
Edward A. Kravitz, PhD
Harvard Medical School
No field called neuroscience existed in 1960. Only two substances, acetylcholine and norepinephrine, were accepted as neurotransmitters, and only overseas — in the U.S., prominent investigators believed that communication between nerve cells and targets was entirely electrical. Two international conferences concluded that GABA was not a transmitter compound, while a devastating war and a civil rights movement were disrupting American society. This lecture will describe the studies that completed the evidence required to demonstrate that GABA was a transmitter compound and discuss our responsibility as scientists in great societal events that divide the nation.
Presidential Special Lecture — From Development to Repair — How Growth Factors and Stem Cells Build the Brain
Freda D. Miller, PhD
Hospital for Sick Children
This lecture will focus on how neural stem cells build the mammalian brain and generate the right numbers and types of neurons and glial cells, and how this can go awry in response to genetic or environmental perturbations associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. This lecture will also describe how knowledge gained from these basic studies can lead to brain repair strategies based on harnessing endogenous neural precursor cells in the human brain.
Presidential Special Lecture — Integration of Mind and Metabolism
Dana M. Small, PhD
Current and traditional models of ingestive behavior implicate the consciously perceived hedonic qualities of food as driving overeating, whereas subliminal signals arising from the gut serve to curb our uncontrolled desire for calories. This lecture will present recent evidence suggesting that the inverse is true. More specifically, evidence from human and animal models will be presented demonstrating that it is the subliminal metabolic signals that ascend to the brain to regulate not only food reinforcement, but also perception and higher order cognitive functions.
Presidential Special Lecture — New Genetic Therapies for Huntington's Disease and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases
Sarah J. Tabrizi, MBChB, PhD
University College London Queen Square Institute of Neurology, UK Dementia Research Institute at UCL
This lecture will give an overview of new genetic therapies in development for Huntington’s disease (HD) and other neurodegenerative diseases. It will present the basic preclinical research leading up to the recent first in human trial testing the effects of antisense oligonucleotide therapy (ASO) in HD; this study is the first to demonstrate ASO-mediated protein suppression in patients with a brain disease. ASOs have the potential to provide disease-modifying benefits, and this lecture will review ASO and similar approaches in development for CNS neurodegenerative diseases.
Presidential Special Lecture — Spinal Cord Gateways to Restore Neurological Functions
Gregoire Courtine, PhD
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, University Hospital of Lausanne
A spinal cord injury disrupts the communication between the brain and spinal cord, leading to unrecoverable deficits in motor and autonomic functions. This lecture will discuss the mechanisms that enable electrical spinal cord stimulation to target the circuits controlling these functions. This understanding translated into targeted neuromodulation therapies that restore walking after paralysis and precisely controlled hemodynamics in people suffering from orthostatic hypotension.
Special Lecture — Lineage-Dependent Assembly of the Neocortex
Song-Hai Shi, PhD
The ability of the neocortex to command higher-order brain functions depends on the intricate circuitry comprised of a vast number of diverse neurons. The principles and mechanisms that control the assembly and operation of neocortical circuits remain poorly understood. This lecture will focus on the search for the common commodities of neocortical circuits at both the structural and functional levels, with the premise that developmental origin and lineage relationships guide the formation of neuronal ensembles for functional circuit assembly.
Special Lecture — The Assembly and Function of Hippocampal Circuits
Rosa Cossart, PhD
Our memories are stored in the hippocampus. This lecture will aim at describing how and when the circuits used to store memories emerge during development. It will show how studying early development, from embryonic neurogenesis to perinatal neuronal maturation, provides an interesting framework to gain understanding of mature hippocampal function at the circuit level.
Special Lecture — Proteins, Synapses, and Memory — Local Translation of mRNAs in Neurons
Erin M. Schuman, PhD
Max Planck Institute for Brain Research
An individual neuron in the brain possesses approximately 10,000 synapses, many of which are hundreds of microns away from the cell body and can process independent streams of information. During synaptic transmission and plasticity, remodeling of the local proteome occurs via the regulated synthesis and degradation of proteins. This lecture will describe recent studies aimed at understanding the unique features of neuronal mRNAs and the interesting mechanisms neurons exploit to supply and regulate synaptic proteins.
CLINICAL NEUROSCIENCE LECTURE— Expanding Mechanisms and Therapeutic Targets for Neurodegenerative Disease
Aaron D. Gitler, PhD
This lecture will discuss our progress in using genetic screens in simple model organisms to define mechanisms of human neurodegenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In addition to teaching us about the cellular and molecular defects underpinning neurodegenerative disease, these screens have revealed novel human disease genes and new therapeutic targets.
Special Lecture — Itchy and Scratchy — Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Acute and Chronic Itch
Diana M. Bautista, PhD
University of California, Berkeley
Itch is defined as an unpleasant sensation that evokes a desire to scratch. In contrast to acute itch that is transient and protective, chronic itch is a persistent, debilitating condition for which there are few treatment options. This lecture will discuss studies aimed at understanding the neural mechanisms that mediate acute itch and chronic itch associated with skin, systemic and neurological disorders.
Special Lecture — Theme and Variations — Circuit Mechanisms of Behavioral Evolution
Vanessa Ruta, PhD
The Rockefeller University
Animals display enormous diversity in their behaviors, yet little is known about how nervous systems evolve to produce such variation. Recent advances have ushered in a new era in comparative neurobiology, making it possible to directly compare neural circuits in closely related species and glean insight into the origins and underpinnings of behavioral diversity. This lecture will describe how applying such a comparative approach to the study of courtship behaviors in different Drosophila species has revealed the types of circuit changes that can fuel behavioral evolution.
Special Lecture — Learning From Prediction Error
Reza Shadmehr, PhD
Johns Hopkins University
Can artificial intelligence be a useful guide for how the brain learns? This lecture will examine the cerebellum, a major learning site in which neurons group into populations that learn from prediction errors. Unlike an artificial network, neuronal populations respond only to a specific region of the error space. Thus, the fundamental unit of learning is not a single neuron, but a population of neurons that share a single teacher. The result is a memory that exhibits remarkable features: multiple timescales and resistance to erasure.
Special Lecture — Mechanisms for Balancing Sleep Need and Sleep
Gero Miesenböck, MD
University of Oxford
The lecture will mix recent advances in understanding the regulation and function of sleep with personal vignettes from the early days of optogenetics. The discovery of neurons whose artificial activation induces sleep was a crucial stepping stone to the insight that these neurons naturally respond to byproducts of mitochondrial respiration. Energy metabolism, oxidative stress, and sleep — three processes implicated independently in aging and degenerative disease — are thus fundamentally connected.
Special Lecture — Stress Contagion, Shadows, and Synaptic Imprinting
Jaideep S. Bains, PhD
University of Calgary
The ability of organisms to respond, cope, and adapt to stress is critical for survival. This lecture will focus on the canonical controllers of the endocrine response to stress, the hypothalamic corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) neurons. It will show how these cells are critical for gating innate defensive behaviors and transmitting stress to others. It will also provide insights into the mechanisms that allow for the opening of distinct temporal plasticity windows at synapses between CRH neurons after stress.
Special Lecture — The Short and Long of Inhibition
Hannah Monyer, MD
German Cancer Research Center
This lecture will address the role of GABAergic interneurons in coordinating the activity of neurons in the hippocampal formation, thereby supporting hippocampus-dependent spatial coding and memory. Further evidence that a subclass of GABAergic cells comprises projection neurons that coordinate neuronal activity across distant brain areas will also be discussed. Finally, this lecture will touch upon the role of GABA signaling for cell proliferation in embryonic and postnatal neurogenesis.
Special Lecture — Toward the Mysteries of Sleep — From the Discovery of Orexin to Forward Genetics
Masashi Yanagisawa, MD, PhD
University of Tsukuba
The hypothalamic neuropeptide orexins (hypocretins) play essential roles in sleep/wake regulation; defects in orexin signaling cause the sleep disorder narcolepsy. Although the executive neural circuitry switching sleep/wake brain states has been increasingly revealed in recent years, the fundamental question as to what constitutes the molecular and cellular basis of homeostatic sleep need remains unanswered. This lecture will review the discovery of the orexin system as a sleep regulator and will introduce an exploratory approach toward the mystery of sleepiness.
Special Lecture — Dentate Gyrus Circuits for Encoding, Retrieval, and Discrimination of Episodic Memories
Marlene Bartos, PhD
University of Freiburg
The dentate gyrus (DG) has a key role in hippocampal memory formation. Recent studies recorded and manipulated the activity of different DG neuron types during memory tasks and provided exciting new insights into the mechanisms of DG computational processes, particularly for the encoding, retrieval and discrimination of similar memories. In this lecture, these DG-dependent mnemonic functions will be brought to light. The mechanistic links between the cellular properties and the computations performed by the DG will also be discussed.
Special Lecture — Neuronal Mechanisms of Value-Based Decision-Making — A Brain-Machine Interface Approach
Joni D. Wallis, PhD
University of California, Berkeley
Decision-making is an unobservable cognitive process, making it challenging to investigate the underlying neuronal mechanisms. This lecture will discuss how techniques borrowed from the brain-machine interface field, such as decoding population activity and closed-loop control, can be used to understand how cognitive processes such as decision-making are implemented at the neuronal level. This approach could also lead to the development of novel devices for the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders that involve impaired decision-making.
Special Lecture — Watching the Brain in Action — Creating Tools for Functional Analysis of Neural Circuitry
Lin Tian, PhD
University of California, Davis
This lecture will focus on recent developments of genetically encoded indicators for neurotransmitters with an in-depth look at the design and screening of these sensors. Novel applications enabled by these optical probes will be discussed, as well as practical concerns in behaving animals. In combination with calcium/voltage imaging and optogenetics, the fast-growing sensor toolbox is well-poised to permit direct functional analysis of how chemical input signaling mediates the plasticity and function of brain circuits.