Neuroscience 2019: Celebrating a Historic Year for Brain Science
Nearly 28,000 attendees from 75 countries gathered for Neuroscience 2019, SfN’s 49th annual meeting in Chicago, October 19–23.
The world’s largest gathering of neuroscientists gave attendees the opportunity to form connections with colleagues, share their research with thousands of researchers and institutions from around the globe, and hear from leaders in all corners of the field. It also served as an opportunity for neuroscientists at all career stages to reflect on the progress of neuroscience through events celebrating SfN’s 50th anniversary.
“I like to come to SfN every year because I have colleagues here I get to meet, I get to connect with,” said Mike Berman, a professor at the University of New England. “I get to learn what's going on in my field, to see the cutting-edge advances and techniques.”
View the Neuroscience 2019 infographic and watch the video above to learn more about the annual meeting.
The highly popular Dual Perspectives session returned, focusing on adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus and moderated by Amelia Eisch. Maria Llorens-Martin presented evidence supporting and Arturo Alvarez-Buylla presented evidence questioning the presence of new neurons in the adult human hippocampus. Attendees enjoyed the unique experience of hearing the evidence for and against the competing theories discussed live.
“Part of the value of SfN’s annual meeting is providing a venue for debates happening at the cutting edge of neuroscience,” said Patricia H. Janak, chair of SfN’s 2019 Program Committee. “The Dual Perspectives session allows neuroscientists to engage with some of the most important conversations happening in the field. It’s exciting to see this type of session receive such an enthusiastic response from members.”
In the Dialogues Between Neuroscience and Society lecture, Stanford University Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (AI) Institute Co-Director Fei-Fei Li and SfN President Diane Lipscombe discussed the transformative potential AI and machine learning pose for society. During the lecture, Li brought her unique perspective as both a scientist and ethical leader, emphasizing the importance of understanding how to use technology to augment, not replace, elements of the human experience.
Sarah Clark, a secondary monologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who has been attending SfN meetings for 15 years, said, “I get drawn back to the meeting every year just because of the diversity of the different research that's out there. Getting to see a little bit of everything that everyone is doing is always fascinating. Meeting up with both young and tenured researchers is great because you get to explore so many different ideas about the happenings of the brain.”“Meeting up with both young and tenured researchers is great because you get to explore so many different ideas about the happenings of the brain.”
University of Maryland School of Medicine
Sarah Clark, a secondary monologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who has been attending SfN meetings for 15 years, said, “I get drawn back to the meeting every year just because of the diversity of the different research that's out there. Getting to see a little bit of everything that everyone is doing is always fascinating. Meeting up with both young and tenured researchers is great because you get to explore so many different ideas about the happenings of the brain.”
The Presidential Special Lectures featured four leading scientists:
- Adrian R. Krainer, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory: “From Base Pairs to Bedside: Antisense Modulators of RNA Splicing to Treat Neurological Diseases”
- Paola Arlotta, Harvard University: “Understanding Cortical Development and Disease: From Embryos to Brain Organoids”
- Daniel A. Colón-Ramos, Yale University School of Medicine: “The Cell Biology of the Synapse and Behavior”
- Valentina Emiliani, Vision Institut (CNRS, INSERM, Sorbonne University): “Wavefront Engineering: Illuminating the Neural Landscape”
Nearly 14,000 abstracts were presented at Neuroscience 2019, joined by almost 500 exhibits promoting the latest technology, publications, organizations, and techniques. The Neuroscience 2019 mobile app was downloaded over 24,000 times by attendees. Improvements to the mobile app made it even easier for attendees to connect with one another, navigate the meeting, and build an itinerary. The app also pointed users to new additions to the meeting, including presentations occurring as part of the Science Knows No Borders initiative, a new program that allowed scientists denied travel visas to have their research presented.
As part of SfN’s 50th anniversary celebrations, attendees had the opportunity to experience Neuro Space, an innovative art exhibit created by artist Refik Anadol and in cooperation with ARTECHOUSE. This unique installation, which used technology to showcase how scientists view neurons, served as a preview for a larger exhibit planned for Neuroscience 2020.
Neuroscience 2019 offered many professional development, training, and advocacy opportunities. Over 100 programs presented at the Graduate School Fair, giving trainees an opportunity to connect with institutions. The meeting included 13 Meet-The-Expert sessions on topics including cortical development and disease, fear research, and the circuit dynamics of flies. At the 15 Professional Development Workshops, attendees were able to engage in discussions on topics ranging from imposter syndrome, navigating team science, and optimizing your grant. Additionally, nearly 500 members engaged in science advocacy activities while in Chicago, and SfN launched the 50th Anniversary NeuroAdvocate Challenge to provide opportunities for increased advocacy. That breadth of professional development opportunities is invaluable to attendees at all career stages.
“Being able to present my posters gives me experience and allows me to have that practice of someone who's an expert in your field, coming up and asking you really hard questions,” said Julie Gorman, an undergraduate student at Seattle University attending the annual meeting for the first time. “It's really nice to be here for networking. I can go up to schools that I'm potentially interested in, look at what their labs are doing, look at what their graduate students are doing. And also just to meet other people who are doing really cool things that are inspiring to me.”“Being able to present my posters gives me experience and allows me to have that practice of someone who's an expert in your field, coming up and asking you really hard questions.”
Engagement with Neuroscience 2019 spread well beyond McCormick Place, with 175 journalists from around the globe covering 11 press conferences and other aspects of the meeting. As a result, over 150 news stories were published including articles from Scientific American, Forbes, Science News, and NPR. Attendees also spread word of Neuroscience 2019 around the world, engaging with SfN posts across social media over 50,000 times. Attendees also used #SfN19 over 20,000 times, and SfN’s social media outlets gained over 2,500 fans and followers.