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The big brains
October 2011
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Billed as "the world's largest forum for neuroscientists to debut research and network with colleagues from around the world," the 41st annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN)—otherwise known as Neuroscience 2011—will take place Nov. 12 to 16 in Washington, D.C., at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

With an expected attendance of more than 31,000 people, SfN will keep everyone engaged and interactive through lectures, symposia, workshops and social events focused on innovative neuroscience research. The meeting also will feature thousands of abstracts and provide networking and professional development opportunities.

If figuring out what to attend and when to do it is a bit of a challenge—and it probably is for most people—the meeting section of the SfN website, located at, features the Neuroscience Meeting Planner (NMP). The NMP can be used not only to search abstracts and sessions, but also to create your own itinerary for the annual meeting.

To head off other potential complications for attendees, SfN has also contracted with KiddieCorp to provide childcare and youth programs for those attending the meeting with their families in tow. Onsite childcare and youth programs are available for children between the ages of 6 months and 12 years, but spaces are limited, and it's possible if you haven't already reserved a spot, there may not be any more left. KiddieCorp can be reached by phone at (858) 455-1718 or by email at, and its website is at

KiddieCorp is in its 25th year of providing such services at conventions, trade shows and special events, with the goal of providing children "with a program they want to attend, while providing you with that critical 'peace of mind' so you can attend sessions," according to the company. This year's theme is "Science Camp" and activities will include arts and crafts projects each day, group games, music and movement, board games, story time and dramatic play.

NeuroJobs Job Fair

New at this year's meeting will be SfN's first NeuroJobs Job Fair, featuring employers from industry, nonprofit organizations and academia on-site, along with concurrent career development workshops. The event is free for all meeting attendees and is, as SfN notes, "an opportunity for employers to meet hundreds of job seekers at Neuroscience 2011." The NeuroJobs Job Fair will be held Saturday, Nov. 12, from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., closing at midday for the Neuroscience 2011's "Dialogues" lecture.

Speaking of that lecture, the speaker will be Dr. Robert J. Shiller, an American economist, academic and bestselling author, who will talk about economics and behavior under the title of "Animal Spirits: How Human Behavior Drives the Economy." Shiller currently serves as the Arthur M. Okun Professor of Economics at Yale University and is a fellow at the Yale International Center for Finance of the Yale School of Management.

Reportedly ranked among the 100 most influential economists of the world, Shiller's work has addressed how psychological factors influence decision-making in the economic arena and the impact of group dynamics on financial markets, and SfN invites you to "join Dr. Shiller and leading neuroscientists for an exciting opportunity to examine the interplay between economics and the brain."

Presidential Special Lectures

Neurotrophins: From Axon Growth to Synaptic Plasticity
Mu-Ming Poo, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley and Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Saturday, Nov. 12, 5:15 p.m. to 6:25 p.m.
Neurotrophins were first identified as target-derived factors that promote neuronal differentiation and survival. Over the past decades, they also were found to regulate neuronal differentiation, axonal and dendritic growth, synapse formation and plasticity, as well as cognition and behavior. This lecture provides a retrospective view of the evolving concepts in the study of neurotrophins, with some highlights on recent findings on the role of neurotrophins in axon development and synaptic plasticity.

The Basal Ganglia: Binding Values to Action
Ann M. Graybiel, Ph.D.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sunday, Nov. 13, 5:15 p.m. to 6:25 p.m.
This lecture will summarize evidence that neural activity in cortico-basal ganglia circuits can exhibit high levels of flexibility related to value-based decision-making and adaptive behavior, but also can become overly fixed despite the need for change. This interplay between flexibility and fixity, if imbalanced, may underlie dysfunctions leading to motor and neuropsychiatric problems in basal ganglia-based disorders.

Genes, the Environment, and Decisions: How Fixed Circuits Generate Flexible Behaviors
Cornelia I. Bargmann, Ph.D.
Rockefeller University
Monday, Nov. 14, 5:15 p.m. to 6:25 p.m.
How do genes and the environment interact to generate flexible behaviors? How are behavioral decisions modified by context and experience? Genetic variation, internal states and environmental conditions converge on common neuronal circuits to regulate behaviors in the nematode worm C. elegans. Analysis of these circuits shows the detailed wiring diagram of C. elegans is both incomplete and ambiguous, because modulatory inputs invisible in the anatomical wiring change the flow of information.

The Epigenetic Basis of Common Human Disease
Andrew P. Feinberg, M.D., MPH
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Tuesday, Nov. 15, 5:15 p.m. to 6:25 p.m.
Epigenetics is the study of heritable information other than the sequence of DNA. We are taking an integrated approach to catalyze the generalization of gene- specific to genomic epigenetics and to advance the focus from cancer to common disease. Doing this requires an integration of new conceptual, technological, epidemiological and statistical approaches. Epigenetic variation influenced by genetic variants could help mediate complex traits. We have identified sites of stochastic epigenetic variation in the genome that are stably linked to traits such as body mass index.

Improved member directory launched this spring

WASHINGTON, D.C.—April saw the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) launch a new "Enhanced Member Directory" (EMD) to give its members "a great new resource for finding colleagues around the world." The EMD is accessible only to fellow SfN members, the society notes, "so you can share your fields of study, contact information and biographical information within a trusted community." According to SfN, populating the EMD was the first step toward the launch of NeurOnLine, SfN's members-only online community that launched in the summer. Designed to engage members at all career levels, NeurOnLine "will keep you plugged in to the global SfN membership community," the organization maintains.

NeuroJobs gets a facelift

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Early July saw SfN change up the technology platform for the NeuroJobs online professional development offering, giving it what the organization calls "a new look and enhanced features to help you find jobs even faster. New features include: advanced search options with "cloud filters," an intuitive and visual way to sort and customize your job search results; saved job searches; enhanced job alerts, allowing users to establish a search and receive an automatic notification whenever a matching job is posted; Google Maps, so that job-seekers can now assess potential commutes right from the job detail screen; social media integration to more easily access NeuroJobs on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and to post and find positions using all three networking sites; job application previews; and a searchable portfolio.

Online funding directory available

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A new online offering appeared in mid-August courtesy of SfN, called the "SfN Directory of International Sources of Neuroscience Funding." This resource is for members seeking information about international sources of funding for neuroscience. The online directory provides information about agencies, programs and opportunities for research grants, fellowships and other types of funding available by region and country. SfN will continue to update the directory as it learns about new opportunities, and SfN members are encouraged to submit updates and information about additional resources to

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