The 19th annual NeNa conference organized by Tübingen’s junior neuroscientists featured three keynote lecturers and three days of magic-inspired illusions and perception. This year’s NeNa conference attracted 58 participants from as far as Mexico and India. As is traditional, the conference was held in Schramberg, at the edge of the Black Forest, a place where first-timer Ali Karimi said, “Was a beautiful backdrop for a conference, which, admittedly had one of the best social atmospheres and organization.”

Photo credit: Jorge García Morato

Emphasizing the integrative nature of neuroscience research, four diverse talks opened the conference on the first day: (i) Decision-related activity & feature-selective attention: evidence for a common mechanism in macaque V2 (ii) Motor system dynamics and the representation of spatio-temporal regularities (iii) Moral evaluation to moral decision-making: a conceptual inference from the empirical evidence, and the (iv) Role of acetylation in the physiology and pathogenesis of TDP-43. Altogether at the conference, 42 participants presented their research either through talks or poster presentations. The posters covered topics ranging from “α-synuclein seeding and propagation in hippocampal slice cultures” to the “mathematical framework for testing wiring specificity in cortical connectomes.”

The second day began with workshops – one led by Vanessa Teckentrup on open source data-collecting applications, and the other by Zoë Kirste on effective science communication using social media. Teckentrup’s workshop was focused on the existing open and closed scientific practices as well as their pros and cons, while Kirste’s workshop focused on developing the necessary skills to use social media for advancing one’s scientific career.

The next attractive event was the plenary talk from Nicky Clayton & Clive Wilkins on the “psychology of magic,” or the use of magical effects to explore how memory, mental time travel and theory of mind works. This talk was more like a plenary demonstration and discussion given how many active magic tricks were performed that left the crowd wondering how exactly they did it. The duo was complementary given that Clive Wilkins brought his magical expertise to the table, whereas Nicky Clayton, Cambridge Professor, carried her expertise on the contemporary study of comparative cognition. To follow-up this magical act, PhD student Pablo Grassi, led a workshop the next day entitled, Learning cognitive principles through stage magic,” where he showed a hilarious YouTube clip about making a human being invisible. As always with NeNa, after finishing the scientific program, the night continued as we socialized, danced and played outrageous card games (the not so magical kind). That was a nice opportunity to interact with each other as well as with the keynote speakers.

On the last day, we had an impressive keynote lecture from Huib Mansvelder (Vrije University Amsterdam) on the “Cellular Basis of Human Intelligence.” Mansvelder presented how single neurons and synapses participate in the process of information transfer and how it varies depending on a person’s IQ level.

The last talk of the day was “Sensory Input from the Body to the Insular Cortex” by Renee Hartig, winner of the award for best talk at this year’s NeNa. The complementary award for best poster went to Harshad P.A. for his poster titled, “Effect of Naᵥ1.1 mutations on sleep studied in genetic mouse models.” In the spirit of collaboration, the award winners teamed up to write this article covering the highlights of NeNa 2018.

Overall, it was a wonderful conference and a great experience for the young neuroscience community. However, this would not have been possible without the immense support of the amazing NeNa organizing team and Graduate Training Centre of Neuroscience (GTC). Hats off to them!

Renée Hartig is from the USA and graduated from the Neural and Behavioral Neuroscience Masters Program ’15. She is currently a GTC doctoral student in the Laboratory of Functional and Comparative Neuroscience with Dr. Henry Evrard.

Harshad P.A. is a GTC doctoral student at the Hertie Institute for Clinical BrainResearch, University of Tuebingen, Germany in the Experimental Epileptology group of Prof. Dr. Holger Lerche.


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