FENS Trimestrial Newsletter – Spring Issue 2013

18 June 2013


18 June, 2013 in FENS News

The Spring Issue of the FENS Trimestrial Newsletter is now available online. Enjoy your reading!

Message from the FENS President 


Marian Joëls

Marian Joëls

The Brain Conferences 

FENS is well-known for its biennial Forum Meetings. These international meetings –reserve the dates for the next one, in Milan, July 5-9, 2014 – attract around 7000 participants. They provide an extensive platform for presentation of the latest data, be it as an oral contribution or during the lively poster sessions. But this is not the only type of conference organized by FENS. Alternating with the FENS Forum, there is a smaller-sized FENS featured regional meeting, taking place in the odd years – the next one in Prague later this year. Recently, another instrument has been added to the family: The Brain Conferences.

The Brain Conferences are high-level scientific meetings, where up to 150 experts on a given subject meet in a lively and intimate environment. A small selection of international leaders is invited, to present their latest data and, more importantly, to highlight and discuss their current views and news on the subject. No hidden agendas, no holding back: striving for a vibrant atmosphere in which open discussions are even more important than exposing the audience to data slides. Senior as well as junior scientists can join in, subject to selection. This sounds exclusive, and so it is, but without excluding anyone: those that can truly contribute to the subject are admitted to the conference, up to the maximal number of participants. The idea is that every participant really contributes to the overall exchange of information and ideas, for instance by presenting a poster or joining in the discussions.

The series started in 2012 and initially was a co-production by FENS and the European Science Foundation, ESF. After reprogramming of ESF priorities, FENS has found a new and stable partner in The Brain Prize, the annual 1 million euro prestigious prize celebrating European neuroscience.

This partnership with The Brain Prize, starting in 2014, allows FENS to organize two Brain Conferences annually, at least for the next 5 years. The Brain Prize is more than just a sponsor: The Brain Conferences will be placed in the setting of Denmark, befitting the Danish background of this prize. Moreover, each spring edition of the Brain Conferences will be linked to the subject of the previous year’s prize winners.

A small committee of internationally renowned scientists each year selects the topics of the two conferences. The committee aims to rotate subjects across the various neuroscience fields as much as possible, always keeping the scientific standard high. Conferences on ’The neurobiology of synapses and their dysfunction’ as well as the ‘Neurobiology of action’ are planned for 2013. For 2014, two conferences are programmed, the first – taking place between 20th and 23rd April 2014 – on ‘Control of neurons, circuits and behavior’.

So, keep an eye on the FENS website and the announcements of the Brain Conferences. These are special events you don’t want to miss yourself or that can be of decisive value for your brightest students.

Marian Joëls 

FENS President


Editorial from the Communication Committee: European Month of the Brain 


Kiki Thermos

Kiki Thermos

May 2013 has been designated as the European Month of the Brain (EMoB) by the European Commission (DG Research and Innovation). The meetings organized by the European Commission in Brussels and Dublin had appropriately central stakeholders present, including FENS, to discuss the successes and emerging successes and emerging challenges within the European neuroscience landscape.

The challenge is great and multifold; scientific, philosophical and societal.

Philippe Cupers, Head of Sector ‘Neuroscience’ (DG Research and Innovation, European Commission) and Mary Baker, President of the European Brain Council (EBC) will speak to us about this great initiative.

Philippe Cupers Mary G. Baker
Philippe Cupers Mary G. Baker

Q: What were the objectives of the EMoB?

PC: The main objective of the European Month of the Brain was to provide a framework to raise awareness on brain research and healthcare issues. It was an appropriate event to cap on the unique commitment by EU (about EUR 2 billion dedicated to brain research since 2007) and for foresight preparation. The European Month of the Brain was an umbrella initiative open to any stakeholders (more than 120 events organized in 25 countries).

MB: The main objectives of the EMoB were to:

  • increase Society’s awareness of the importance of brain research and healthcare matters;
  • showcase EU and National achievements;
  • outline research and policy;
  • improve the resource allocation for brain research and healthcare within and between EU member states and associated countries;
  • educate and start to lift ‘taboos’ around mental health.

Following the invitation + of the EC, an impressive number of initiatives and meetings organized throughout Europe happened during May 2013. Many of these, including activities organized by FENS member societies, can be found on the EMoB website. The most important were two key conferences the EC organized in Brussels and Dublin:

  • Brussels, Belgium – 14 May 2013: the conference showcased European projects in the field of Brain research and outlined future scientific challenges.
  • Dublin, Ireland – 27, 28 May 2013: this conference, organized under the Irish EU Presidency, addressed the challenges and policies for brain research and healthcare to be addressed in the future.


Q: What are the issues at stake?

PC: Understanding the human brain and its diseases remains one of the most fascinating scientific challenges, and one of the ultimate frontiers of life science research. But disorders of the brain also affect and cause suffering to about 165 million European citizens every year. In addition, brain disorders generated socioeconomic costs of about EUR 800 billion in Europe in 2010. Those costs are expected to become even more important with an ageing European society. Brain research is characterized by an unequalled level of complexity and in the last few years, several pharmaceutical companies reduced or closed their neurosciences R&D facilities because of lower perspectives of return on investment. There is therefore a crucial need to address the current deficit in knowledge that underpins knowledge-based economy, innovation and drug discovery in this area.

MB: We now know that one in three Europeans is likely to be affected by a brain disorder in their lifetime. These span more than 200 conditions, from neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, right across the spectrum to acquired brain injury and mental health. Treating those affected costs Europe €798 billion a year, a number that will rise even more in the future. Further details on the EBC – European Brain Council’s 2010 study“Cost of Disorders of the Brain in Europe” can be found here. This study as well as all demographic studies prove that the cost and burden on our healthcare systems will rise exponentially with the ageing European population.
The challenge of diagnosing, treating and caring for those affected by brain disorders has never been greater. No European country alone has the expertise, or resources necessary to tackle all of the big questions in this field. Progress is being made by working together but even more can be achieved. Coordinated strategies to tackle brain research and mental healthcare need to continue to be developed to reinforce coordination and optimization of resources at the national level.
Furthermore, by organizing the European Month of the Brain, the European Commission aimed at showcasing and raising awareness about benefits, added value and impact of EU-supported research in the area of brain research and healthcare. Based on the obtained results, the future scientific challenges for brain research will be defined. This was tackled during the Brussels conference “European Brain Research Successes and Next Challenges” that targeted all interested stakeholders: scientists, laypeople, industry and patient representatives, policy makers and media. 
The Dublin conference “Healthy brain: healthy Europe. A new horizon for brain research and health care” examined all the relevant issues from how to improve awareness and remove stigma and myths, highlighting the need for the right infrastructures and policies, developing the right regulatory environments, encouraging innovation, facilitating the absorption and integration of research results into policy and good practice and taking the patients’ needs into account.

Q: What are the future challenges?

PC: The Conference ‘European Brain Research: Successes and Next Challenges’ outlined some challenges for understanding how the brain works (including for predictive neurosciences), for prevention (including against stigma and discrimination) and treatment of brain disorders, for collaborating with industry (need for investment in basic research, and addressing issues related to regulatory framework) and for international collaboration (better coordination and alignment of programmes).

MB: During the last decades, great achievements have been made in the field of brain research – yet, much more is still to be discovered and understanding the human brain and its diseases is undoubtedly one of the greatest scientific challenges for the years to come.
Discovering further how the brain works will have long-term benefits for society and could play a greater role in driving innovation in Europe, especially in view of the growing costs of mental health and neurodegenerative disorders. 
Effective management of health, social, educational, employment and productivity costs will not be achieved by improvements in healthcare delivery alone. New, integrated and innovative national efforts are needed that deliver real health benefits. Such an approach requires overarching national efforts that are coordinated, cooperative, focused on health outcomes and meet the needs of patients, families and carers.
Another area that needs urgent attention is a better and faster delivery of research outcomes to the patient. Despite progress in translational research, the industry is having a difficult time to develop the innovative medicines required to address the public health needs. To improve this situation, clinical trials processes are to be revisited and adapted to the new needs. A better partnership with the industry is more than ever needed.
The European Commission is working in order to address future challenges in its Europe 2020 strategy and in particular in the “Horizon 2020” proposal. This willingness and need to address urgent research and health issues will be reflected also in the second Innovative Medicine Initiative.

Q: Will the achievements of the EMoB have an impact of national political agendas?

PC: The output of conference ‘Healthy Brain: Healthy Europe – A new horizon for brain research and healthcare in Europe’ was important for policy makers to better understand the specific needs of the various stakeholders in the area of brain-related diseases in Europe. As a consequence, it is very important for Member States to work together to improve brain research and healthcare in Europe. National efforts have to be better co-ordinated, national strategies need to be developed and be better aligned. Moreover, we need to create a favourable environment for brain-related research and innovation through the right types of collaboration and networking, infrastructures, policies and regulations.

KT: I thank you for this interview and I congratulate you for making EMoB a success.

Philippe Cupers, PhD 

Head of Sector Neuroscience
DG Research and Innovation
Directorate Health
European Commission

Mary G. Baker, MBE

European Brain Council

Philippe Cupers Mary G. Baker



Kiki Thermos 

FENS Communication Committee


Opinion Corner: 


What Counts?  

Leszek Kaczmarek

Leszek Kaczmarek,
Profesor on neurobiology
at the Nencki Institute,
Warsaw, Poland

We are living in the world that counts. In science, publications are counted; impact factors, citations, Hirsch indices (difficult to count how many variations have been produced) are all counted. Bureaucracies love counting – it gives a so long-sought-for “objective” and unequivocal measure of scientific productivity! What counts the most is to publish in Nature, Science, Cell or their derivatives. This makes us the victims of a terror of so-called high impact journals. It seems that many of us do not notice that these journals are often products of profit-making companies. Nevertheless, these journals signify research quality and prestige. Grants are dependent on them; positions ranging from postdocs to full professorships rely on them. This, in my opinion, is madness – a paper in the “most respected” journal counts much more than the real originality and quality of the study it reports on.


Obviously, there are rational reasons behind this. First, our science gets progressively more complicated. Neurosciences in particular are enormously difficult to follow, as they incorporate a variety of approaches from multiple disciplines and attract specialists from psychology, biology, medicine, physics, chemistry, mathematics, informatics, and so forth. Hence, nobody can understand and appreciate all of this intricacy. However, we have to judge, especially when we evaluate others through peer review – their achievements, research proposals and publications. Then, there is also a need to evaluate laboratories, departments, institutes and even universities. We depend on public money and we have to provide proof that we use this money responsibly. Simple measures are good for that. Simple, however, does not mean simplistic! And I am very much afraid that this is what we have become, by trusting editorial judgment – simplistic. Consider that the vast majority of submissions to those top-rated journals do not even get to the point of fair review.
There is also another danger: errors and mistakes, especially by powerful authors influence disproportionately the scientific literature. The idea that science cleans itself, does not appear to work efficiently anymore in the world of too many facts and frauds, ideas and misconceptions, scientists and celebrities.

What might be the solution to this problem? Its reasons appear to be deeply rooted, not only in the “development” of science itself, but probably even more so in today’s culture and societal changes. Thus, there is probably not a simple way to deal with that. At least, we shall be aware and can pay attention to those issues. The very least we can do – as scientists – is to not look so much into journal reputation but rather just read the paper! For instance, why not request that each grant application should be accompanied by a few publications by the applicant? Not too many, just a few to read, to have food for thought. At least in neurosciences we shall follow the brain functions: thoughts and rational judgement.

Leszek Kaczmarek is Professor of Neurobiology, head of the Life Science Committee at the Polish Basic Research Grant Agency (NCN), vice-president of the European Molecular Biology Conference, member of the Polish Academy of Sciences, European Molecular Biology, Academia Europaea, author of over 200 research papers, cited over 6 000 times. He was five times on the ERC panel (Starting Grants in Neurosciences) and 4 years on the EMBO Fellowship Committee, and altogether reviewed well above 5 000 grant applications over the last dozen years.

FENS’ Note: 

The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) is a worldwide initiative covering all scholarly disciplines, which recognizes the need to improve the ways in which the outputs of scientific research are evaluated.

Both FENS and EJN have recently signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment.


Opinion Corner: 


Neuroscience and Law: a difficult but necessary dialogue on how to identify causalities without falling into determinism  

Hervé Chneiweiss

Hervé Chneiweiss

The law wants to appeal to neuroscience to bring forth evidence of a crime and confuse its author, to determine the dangerousness of individuals and therefore adjust their sentence, develop “therapeutic” methods to “reeducate” offenders. But questions on the utility of neuroimaging to the justice system remain and are at the centre of a difficult but necessary dialogue.


Neuroscience has made a recent but noticed entrance in the political field through several attempts at manipulation of our work in order to answer societal expectations of security. In France we may mention a regrettable collective expertise report of INSERM on “conduct disorders in young children,” followed by research for markers, whether genetic, biological or in brain imaging, could be used to test sex offenders and the addition of legal expertise to the scope of application of functional brain imaging (1).

Several informed opinions warned against the unacceptable confusion between scientific research and legal application of the still very partial and yet-to-be-validated individual results obtained outside a laboratory. Thus, the 116 opinions of the National Consultative Ethics Committee (CCNE) usefully completed the work of the Council for Strategic Analysis (2) and a series of parliamentary hearings and reports that accompanied the revision of the bioethics laws (3).

However, these hearings and reports had also exposed that progress in neuroimaging opened new perspectives beyond the scientific and medical framework and related to society as a whole, its practice, its uses, the image of the individual and the very concept of freedom of thought. This social dimension, in particular the renewal of questioning the individual responsibility, was emphasized.

The central question facing us today is the individual meaning of the collected data.An important political and economical part of our society would want to find in brain imaging the basis of an individual determinism of behaviour. Paraphrasing Hume’s famous phrase adapted to neuroimaging “it is not because a behaviour is associated to an image that the image indicates (let’s say: predicts) a behaviour”. I could rephrase this by saying “it is not because an image illustrates the cerebral activity of an individual during a real or simulated type of behaviour at an instant in his life that the individual in question had no other option but to behave this way and that different behaviour would have been associated with another cerebral image.” This is the constantly renewed error of confusing the understanding of a code and the existence of a predetermined program. This confusion has already been made in genetics in confusing the DNA in our chromosomes with the “great book of life” that reveals the fate of each of us. To this “gene-foretelling” now follows an “MRI- foretelling” which would read our destiny in our brain function.

Yes, our ambition is to decipher the neural code, but this will not allow us to read minds, let alone to guess the future thoughts of an individual. Knowing a language allows us to read and access all the books in a library, but does not allow us to know their content before we read them, nor to predict the substance of those which will join the shelves tomorrow. Brain imaging reveals the activity of an individual at the moment of his action and tells us nothing of the history that made him as an individual; nor of his cerebral activities preceding the choice of the observed behaviour, much less what his behaviour will be in a few months or years in an environment unknown to the experimenter.

Justice always seeks to establish facts, and naïve observers would think that an MRI, structural or functional, would go deeper into the soul of the suspect than one of the key witnesses. This is based on the idea that there is an absolute neurophysiologic truth contained in the cerebral circuits. Consider two examples drawn from real events. In the United States, cerebral immaturity argued upon MRI imaging tensor showing an increase of myelination up to 20 years, has been a major support to reconsider the minimum age for the death penalty (4). More recently in India, a young woman accused of her husband’s murder was “proven” guilty because in functional MRI (fMRI) she did not “respond” to the word arsenic, suggesting a habituation to a well-known word and “proving” she had used it. We have a glimpse here, as before, of the “lie detector” of how an “inherent reasoning” guides the interpretation of a review. Yesterday, too much emotion meant guilt; today it is a lack of response in fMRI. But how to react when the subject who perhaps witnessed a violent scene adheres to and identifies with a wrong memory? Brain image could show that the subject is not lying, to himself or court, but in no case does it show that he says “the” truth, only that it is “his” truth.

The brain is a powerful machine, which speculates on the true and the false and compares the real perception thereof. But there is no neural image of the “truth”.

Moreover, one of the great dangers of this security-driven application transcribed in law is seeing a distrust building towards our research, as we are constantly called upon to underline the limitations of our results, and therefore depriving us of the moral and financial support, which we absolutely need.

The difficulties of dialogue between neuroscience and law illustrate the major ethical tension opened by progress in neuroscience, tension between the need for development of analyses of human brain function and the difficulty we have to understand and admit that scientific knowledge feeds the likelihood that our assumptions are verified on a group of individuals while remaining inapplicable to an individual; especially if the application shall be considered proof as irrefutable truth as in the field of justice.

Hervé Chneiweiss, MD PhD

Plasticité Gliale et Tumeurs cérébrales
Centre de Psychiatrie et Neurosciences
U894 Inserm/ Université Paris Descartes
herve.chneiweiss@inserm.fr (5)


1 Loi de Bioéthique 7 July 2011. Art.16-14: “Technical Brain imaging may be used only for medical or scientific research, or in judicial expertise. The express consent of the person must be obtained in writing prior to the completion of examination after they have been duly informed of its nature and its purpose. Consent refers to the purpose of the exam. It is revocable at any time without constraint of form ” 

2 Notes and Analysis Report The brain and the law by Olivier Oullier and Sarah Sauneron on www.strategie.gouv.fr>Les publications>les notes d’analyse 

3 We can cite for example the OPECST hearings organized by Members of Parliament Alain Claeys and Jean-Sebastien Vialatte on 26 March 2008: Exploration of the brain, neuroscience: scientific progress, ethical issues: http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/13/cr-oecst/CR_Neurosciences.pdf, then on 29 June and 30 November 2011 hearings on Brain exploration and brain treatment: ethical and legal issues followed by a OPECST report on The impact and challenges of new technologies of Brain exploration and therapy of March 13, 2012 http://www.senat.fr/rap/r11-476-1/r11-476-11.pdf 

4 Fortunately for France, François Mitterrand and Robert Badinter did not need to wait for advances in brain imaging to abolish the death penalty in 1981. 

5 Member of the INSERM Ethics committee (ERMES). Member of the scientific council of the OPECST


The Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Ireland 

“Understanding the brain from molecules to mind” 


Shane M O’Mara

Shane M O’Mara

The Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN) leads brain research in Ireland; it is Ireland’s only dedicated neuroscience research institute. Research in TCIN is captured in the following phrase: ‘Understanding the brain from molecules to mind’. Our animating ethos rests on the belief that major and fundamental research problems are best solved by combining research strengths across disciplines and levels of analysis. Combining our strengths in this way will allow us to deliver major scientific discoveries of great consequence for human health, welfare and knowledge. TCIN is an interdisciplinary research institute: its Principal Investigators (PIs) derive from a wide range of parent disciplines including psychology, physiology, biochemistry, engineering, psychiatry and genetics, among others. The Institute currently comprises some 45 academic and clinician-scientist PIs and their research groups to a complement of approximately 250 researchers. TCIN currently has over 80 registered Ph.D. students; additionally, it educates 18 students annually, who graduate with an M.Sc. in Neuroscience (the only one in Ireland). It also educates 42 undergraduate students each year who graduate with a B.A. (Mod.) in Neuroscience. It hosts a popular public lecture series annually, and it has initiated and participated in major exhibitions inTrinity College’s Science Gallery.

TCIN has a full range of modern technologies and facilities that allow it to realise its ‘molecules to mind’ research mission. TCIN is housed in the Lloyd Building on the Trinity College campus and possesses advanced research technologies in-house, including two high-field Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) systems, preclinical models, access to patient populations, bio samples, and genotyping. It holds current substantial research funds from diverse sources, including Science Foundation Ireland, the Wellcome Trust, the Health Research Board, the European Commission Framework Programme and industrial sponsors, as well as substantial philanthropic support. TCIN has received significant past support from the Higher Education Authority Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions in Ireland (which provided the priming grant to construct TCIN in 2001).


Lloyd Building, Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience

Lloyd Building, Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience


We currently build on our existing strengths within the following three thematic research areas: 

Research Focus 1: Synapses, Cognition and Behaviour 

Research Focus 2: Neuropsychiatry and Neurodevelopmental Disorders 

Research Focus 3: Neurodegeneration, Neuroprotection and Neurorepair 

Ocular Study fMRI study of Cognitive
Ocular Study
P. Kenna / TCIN Images
fMRI study of Cognitive 
Impairment in the brain
A. Bokde/TCIN Images

We also continue to further develop our platform technologies in Imaging and Neural Engineering

Given our diverse disciplinary origins, interdisciplinarity is at the core of our research effort. Reflecting TCIN’s interdisciplinary ethos, our PIs align their research activity across these thematic areas. By leveraging our research strengths in these areas, we can prioritize our focus on innovation, continue developing our successful education programmes and continue building our significant contribution to society and outreach activities.

Contribution to Society and Outreach

The research strengths of TCIN ensure that it is ideally placed to contribute to society and to the future health and welfare of all individuals. The societal impact of our research themes can be summarised as follows:

  • Research on Synapses, Cognition and Behaviour contributes to understanding the brain sufficiently to enable cures for neurological ailments associated with age, injury and disease.
  • Research on Neuropsychiatry and Neurodevelopmental Disorders contributes to an understanding of neurodevelopmental, child and adolescent disorders; adult psychosis and affective disorders; disorders of brain ageing and neurodegeneration; neuroimmunology; and addictions.
  • Research on Neurodegeneration, Neuroprotection and Neurorepair provides possible new therapeutic targets, as well as appropriate clinical samples to evaluate the potential of these novel targets.
  • Advances in Platform Technologies Supporting Brain Imaging and Neural Engineering will lead to the development of specific neurodiagnostic systems of real clinical benefit for the study of ageing, neurological and psychiatric disorders, and to the development of new methods for neural prostheses and therapeutic electrical stimulation.

TCIN’s outreach activities have ranged from engagement with young children in their views of the brain by means of a children’s art competition, through to the frequent involvement of its principal investigators with relevant public bodies, charities and our regular engagement with the media.


Our guiding principle is that we continue to provide a unique environment for us to combine research strengths across disciplines and levels of analysis, to make new discoveries that advance human understanding of the structure and the function of the mind and brain in health and in disease, to make a distinctive contribution to human health and welfare, and to lead the innovative exploration of new areas of translational ‘bench to bedside’ neuroscience. We welcome and encourage our friends across Europe and the World to visit and collaborate with us.

Shane M O’Mara DPhil (OXON), FTCD, FAPS, MRIA

Professor of Experimental Brain Research
And Director, Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience


The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem 


Eilon Vaadia

Eilon Vaadia

In September 2009, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI) inaugurated the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC). The University’s decision to invest $150 million in a new center for brain sciences was inspired by the success of HUJI’s Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation (established in 1992) along with the worldwide realization of the utmost importance of advancing our understanding of the brain for the future of medicine and mankind. HUJI regards neuroscience as a top priority area that is crucial for its role as a leading institution of basic and applied knowledge in the 21st century.

The vision of ELSC is first and foremost to promote cross-disciplinary research in order to achieve a deeper understanding of the brain and to pioneer new approaches to brain diseases. A key aspect of ELSC’s agenda is the nourishment of synergistic collaborations between theoreticians and experimentalists from a broad range of disciplines, synthesizing knowledge at various levels of brain organization; from the molecular-cellular through the neuronal systems level, culminating in cognition and behaviour. Building on HUJI’s long record of excellence in computational neuroscience, theory and modelling will be at the core of ELSC research and education programs and will help promote reciprocal collaborations with other domains of inquiry in science and engineering at HUJI.

Research at ELSC, consisting today of 27 laboratories, focuses on five major areas of inquiry: (1) Molecular neuroscientists integrate genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics in the study of the genetic and molecular mechanisms that shape the structure and functioning of neuronal systems and play role in pathologies such as Alzheimer’s’, stress, addiction, and chronic pain; (2) At the neuronal circuit level, researchers study the signal transduction in neurons, synapses and local neuronal networks, using genetic-molecular-cellular tools along with imaging (optogenetics) and electrophysiology; (3) Systems neuroscientists investigate sensory and motor processing in behaving animals including animal models of human diseases, using imaging, electrophysiology and psychophysics; 4) Cognitive neuroscientists investigate brain mechanisms underlying human perception and cognition, including decision making, consciousness and language, using psychophysics, magnetic imaging and electrophysiology; (5) Computational neuroscientists combine approaches from mathematics, physics, computer science and statistics to develop theories and computer models of brain dynamics and function from the single neuron to networks, addressing contemporary problems in learning, memory, sensory information processing, motor control and decision making, in close collaboration with the experimental groups.


Brain Science Building

The new ELSC home: The Charles and Susan Goodman Brain Science Building


Interdisciplinary education in neuroscience is a top priority of ELSC. The Center oversees HUJI’s acclaimed international graduate program in computational neuroscience (taught in English). This program attracts creative and talented students who are trained in the quantitative and technical skills required for modern brain research. Generous fellowships for PhD and postdoctoral training are awarded to distinguished students. The program is specially designed to meet the challenge of providing high quality training in the different facets of modern neuroscience to students from considerably diverse backgrounds.

The success of the PhD program is key to the realization of ELSC long-term vision of building a society of renaissance scientists, who master broad, deep and creative approaches to the complex brain enigma.

ELSC views international collaboration as vital for meeting the huge challenges facing modern neuroscience. The Center has already established several programs with universities and institutes in Europe and the United States. Examples are (1) the new Max Planck center at ELSC which promotes collaboration with the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried; (2) the ELSC-EPFL Fund that supports joint research between ELSC and the Brain-Mind Institute at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne; (3) the Gatsby Fund supporting research in computational neuroscience in collaboration with the Gatsby Unit (UCL) and the Theoretical Neuroscience Center at Columbia University.

Finally, to facilitate interactions between scientists, provide a home for the students and host new modern experimental facilities, a state-of-the-art building will be constructed at HUJI’s Edmond J. Safra campus. The building has been designed by Foster & Partners (London) and Baer, Shifman-Nathan Architects (Jerusalem). As shown in the picture, the sun-screen over the building’s glass walls will depict some of the drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, providing an iconic artistic symbol of the building’s spirit and agenda. The 14,500 sq.m. building will house laboratories, offices for researchers and administration, seminar rooms, an auditorium, a cafeteria, an art gallery, core research facilities and parking. Construction will start in July 2013.

For more details about ELSC, its teaching programs and members, the science and the building, please visit the website http://ELSC.huji.ac.il.


I thank ELSC member, Prof. Haim Sompolinsky for his advice and comments.

Prof. Eilon Vaadia

The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (Director)
The Jack H. Skirball Chair & Fund in Brain Research
Department of Medical Neurobiology, IMRIC, Faculty of Medicine
The Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation (ICNC)
The Hebrew University


News from EJN:

Technical Spotlight Articles 


EJN is an international journal that publishes research reports and reviews in the fields of developmental, molecular, cellular, systems, behavioral, and cognitive neuroscience, reflecting the significant advances made in these areas by neuroscientists across the world. The development of new methods or the refinement of classical techniques often enables novel insights into the structure and function of the nervous system. In 2008 EJN introduced Technical Spotlights as a novel category of articles to give special emphasis to methodological developments. Technical Spotlights are brief reviews that describe and evaluate novel techniques or discuss controversial research approaches and issues of validity of major methodologies or research avenues. Technical Spotlights may relate to any of the areas of research covered by EJN, provided the presented method has potential applications to advance our understanding of the organization and function of the nervous system in health or disease.

Our Editors welcome pre-publication enquiries for Technical Spotlight articles and these should be submitted online at http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/ejn.

Manuscripts should be prepared according to our Author guidelines. Technical Spotlight articles are not required to follow the research report format, but illustrations are also highly encouraged. Their length is not limited but we recommend a total of ~ 5000 words.

Since we launched Technical Spotlights in 2008, we received excellent articles highlighting and critically discussing diverse methodologies, as exemplified by the examples featured on the right. For the full list of Technical Spotlights, please visit the EJN website. We are looking forward to receiving a growing number of such submissions.

Co-Editors in Chief, EJN

Jean-Marc Fritschy Martin Sarter
Jean-Marc Fritschy
Martin Sarter
Viral transduction of the neonatal brain delivers controllable genetic mosaicism for visualising and manipulating neuronal circuits in vivo
by Ji-Yoen Kim, Ryan T. Ash, Carolina Ceballos-Diaz, Yona Levites, Todd E. Golde, Stelios M. Smirnakis and Joanna L. Jankowsky
Spatio-temporal control of neural activity in vivo using fluorescence microendoscopy
by Yuichiro Hayashi, Yoshiaki Tagawa, Satoshi Yawata, Shigetada Nakanishi and Kazuo Funabiki
Computation of measures of effect size for neuroscience data sets
by Hentschke and Maik C. Stüttgen
Is my antibody-staining specific? How to deal with pitfalls of immunohistochemistry
By Jean-Marc Fritschy


NENS Section: 


The Results of the Recent NENS Survey 

Ferdinando Rossi

Ferdinando Rossi

Recently, a survey prepared by the NENS committee was submitted to the Directors and Coordinators of the member Schools, with a view to assessing the degree of awareness about NENS activities and opportunities and to further identify possible activities that NENS can initiate to respond more effectively to its members’ needs and interests.

The survey had a good rate of response, with 72 replies among the 170 contacted School programmes. One of the main findings of the enquiry is that, while there is good awareness (and appreciation) of the NENS activities by the School Directors, the information is much less diffused among the direct beneficiaries, notably among students (see the graphs below). This suggests that NENS activities could be even more successful provided that the relevant information is more widely circulated within the Schools.

For this reason, the NENS Committee is working to improve its communication and outreach by directly contacting students. However, this being more ways you might suggest to improve the dissemination of information about NENS would certainly be most welcome. So, please visit the NENS website:http://www.fens.org/nens/about.html and recommend your friends or students to do the same.

How Can You Join the NENS Directory?

Following the article on the NENS Directory that was published in the last FENS Issue, we received a number of inquiries with regard to the application procedure and the eligibility criteria for joining NENS. 
To become a member of NENS and be included in the NENS Programme Directory, you just have to fill out the online form available on the NENS website at:http://www.fens.org/nens/form/
Your application will be immediately evaluated by the NENS committee and, within a few days, your School programme will be included in the list, if eligible, with full access to all advantages and benefits offered to NENS members.
The following criteria are taken into consideration when evaluating your application request to join the NENS Directory:


  • the topic of the School must be clearly and directly related to Neuroscience;
  • the School should have explicit educational scopes and should provide a degree (Master or PhD);
  • the online information of the School programme should be available also in English.

Should you have any further questions or need for clarification, please write to us at nens@fens.org 


Ferdinando Rossi

Chair, NENS Committee


The NENS Committee is in the process of evaluating the applications for the NENS stipends and the Young Researcher Exchange Program (YREP, with Japan and China), submitted for the deadline of 15 June 2013. The results will be shortly announced to the applicants.

new call for both stipends for training stay and YREP stipends for job interviews is now open with deadline on 15th October 2013.


Neuroanatomical Histology – A historical repository at the University of Oxford 

We are delighted to announce the launch of the ‘Neuroanatomical Histology – A historical repository‘ University of Oxford website as contribution to the FENS History of Neuroscience Projects. The website contains two collections: (1) Sherrington and (2) Le Gros Clark.


Sherrington: A wooden box of glass microscope slides belonging to Sir Charles Sherrington and labelled “Histology Demonstration Slides” has survived in the University Laboratory of Physiology at the University of Oxford since 1936.
This box contains 21 drawers of slides from Sherrington’s years at St Thomas Hospital (1888-1895), Liverpool University (1896-1914) and Oxford University (1914-1935). It also contains slides presented to him by other leading contemporary neuroscientists (Ruffini, Brown, Saunderson, Fritsch). The earliest slide is a preparation of the human large intestine from 1898, the latest slide is dated 1960, having been added to the collection after Sherrington’s death. These added slides are clearly labeled with the names of the contributors (Denny-Brown, Gibson, Cooper, Ruffini, Burdon Saunderson, Mellanby, Mann and Fritsch). The slides are from a large variety of species and utilize diverse staining methods. There were some very helpful notes written by Sybil Cooper and identified by Marianne Fillenz placed in some of the trays. For more information on Sherrington, with reference to this box of slides, please refer to the following article:Insights into the life and work of Sir Charles Sherrington, Zoltán Molnár & Richard E. Brown, Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11, 429-436.



Le Gros Clark: This collection contains 12 drawers with over 100 histological slides all fabulous illustrations that were used for teaching by Sir Wilfrid Le Gros Clark in the Human Anatomy Department (now called Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, at University of Oxford).


The collection contains high resolution scans of these slides annotated and original explanatory notes provided. Some of this material is now used for neuroanatomy teaching at University of Oxford.

Together with Dr Richard Boyd in 2010 Zoltán Molnár established the “Oxford History of Science Seminar Series4” and together with Dr Damion Young, Mr John Mason and Professor Richard Brown (Halifax) the team is planning to establish a “3-dimensional images of physiological apparatus and models with historic interest” and link all to https://learntech.imsu.ox.ac.uk/historyofmedsci/.

Zoltán Molnár MD DPhil
Professor of Developmental Neuroscience
Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics
University of Oxford

Golgi Revealed

The building which in the past housed the Institute of General Pathology of the University of Pavia, where Camillo Golgi settled his school and his laboratory, has recently become part of the Museal System of the University of Pavia. 

Among the important testimony of this scientific past, we found an histological collection of historical slides, many dating back to Golgi’s period and prepared by Golgi himself. In order to simplify the research and the study of these preparations, we made a database consisting of 1975 records, one for each single slide. We also took some microscope pictures from these preparations (photos taken by Prof. Marina Bentivoglio, University of Verona). The slides we can date with certainty cover the period from 1869 to 1924. Similarly, the attribution of some preparations was often doubtful since we can not assess, with certainty, who was the preparer. Golgi was often assisted by many of his students in the production of the preparations. Actually, in the database you can appreciate also Golgi’s pupils preparations. Among his students there were physician who became brilliant researchers such as: Adelchi Negri (who discovered the Negri bodies in the brain of mammals affected by rabies), Ferruccio Tartuferi (who firstly applied the black reaction to the morphological studies of retina) and Aldo Perroncito (who described the regenerative processes in the peripheral nerves after traumatic injuries).


Paolo Mazzarello, Antonella Berzero and Valentina Cani

Museum for the History of the University of Pavia


Don’t miss the ESF-FENS Brain Conferences 2013: 

The Neurobiology of Synapses and their Dysfunction
13-17 October 2013, Stresa, Italy 


Chemical synapses mediate signaling between nerve cells in the brain, and their generation, function, and plasticity are key determinants of neuronal circuit function and behaviour The focus of this conference will be on the molecular and cell biological mechanisms of synapse formation and function, and on the pathological aberrations of these processes that lead to neurological and psychiatric disorders.



Nils Brose 
(MPI Exp. Med. Göttingen) 

Michael E. Greenberg 
(Harvard Medical School, US)

Deadline for applications : 15 July 2013

The Neurobiology of Action
20-24 October 2013, Stresa, Italy


All of our actions depend on networks in the nervous system. Some of these emerge through the activity of circuits specialized for behaviours conserved across the animal kingdom, while other organizing patterns emerge through forms of learning and extend to cognitive behavior. The conference will explore this range of neural control and pose critical questions about levels and mechanisms and principles of dynamic control.


Chairs:  Sten Grillner
(Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, SE)

Ann Graybiel 
(MIT, Cambridge, US)

Deadline for applications : 21 July 2013

FENS Awarded Grants

55 travel grants were awarded by FENS for the participation in the FENS Featured Regional Meeting (Prague, September 11 – 14, 2013) The successful applicants have been selected and listed on the FENS News page.

FENS has provided 15 travel grants for the participation in the annual meeting of the SfN (San Diego, November 9 – 13, 2013) The successful applicants have been informed and are now listed on the FENS News page.


FENS will again in 2013 award grants through the History funding initiative.
This initiative provides grants for outstanding projects that aim at documenting the history and development of neuroscience in Europe. Projects will be funded by up to € 3000. 

Further details and the application form are available on the FENS History page.

Deadline for applications: 5 September 2013


Final Advocacy Reports Available Online

Final reports following the FENS-SfN call for advocacy projects performed in 2012 are now available online. Check now on our FENS-SFN Advocacy Grants section and discover a summary and the outcome of each of the 10 projects that were awarded to our National Societies.


Special Event on Advocacy at the FFRM

TThe FENS Communication Committee organizes a special event on advocacy during the FENS Featured Regional Meeting that will be held in Prague on 11-14 September 2013. The event is scheduled for Friday 13th, from 13:00 to 14:30. Two success stories presented by our National Societies on how to advocate for Neuroscience issues, the cost of brain disease and the available instruments in support of neuroscience within Horizon 2020 are going to be part of this meeting. Provisional agenda of the event is available here.

Two success stories presented by our National Societies on how to advocate for Neuroscience issues, the cost of brain disease and the available instruments in support of neuroscience within Horizon 2020 are going to be part of this meeting. Provisional agenda of the event is available here.


FENS and SfN work together in advocacy alert

With a pledge to continue its commitment to transporting animals used in biomedical research, AirFrance supports global neuroscience research and efforts to advance our knowledge and understanding of the nervous system. Two linked scientific committees on the use of animals in biomedical research under SfN and FENS coordinate an advocacy alert to the global scientific community. By addressing a personal thank you letter to AirFrance’s CEO, Mr. Jean-Cyril Spinetta, scientists across the globe may express their support for the company and its policy on transport of animals used for biomedical research. Follow the link http://www.sfn.org/news-and-calendar/news-and-calendar/news/na-advocacy/air-france.

FENS supports the responsible and necessary application of animal studies in the quest to provide new knowledge on basic mechanisms of the nervous system, which benefits the development of new treatment for devastating brain diseases.


Brain Research and the Horizon 2020

An outreach and policy meeting entitled: “The Prospects of Brain Research within Horizon 2020: responding efficiently to Europe’s societal needs“ was jointly organized by FENS, EBC and ESF on 30 May, at the European Parliament.

The conference, which was placed under the EMoB egis, provided an excellent frame of exchange of ideas and sharing experience on the current status and the opportunities of brain research in Europe.


 FENS-EBC-ESF conference, European Parliament

FENS-EBC-ESF conference, European Parliament


The presentations held by speakers, a report following the meeting and pictures taken during the event are available on the FENS website.


Excellent Paper in Neuroscience Award 2013

The ERA-NET NEURON will issue the Excellent Paper in Neuroscience Award 2013 to recognize outstanding scientific publications by young researchers in the field of disease related neurosciences. First authors of publications published within the period 1.1.2012 – 31.12.2012 affiliated in the call partner countries are eligible to apply. The applicant must be under 35 years of age and the impact factor of the journal should be above 10. The deadline for proposal submission is September 15, 2013.

An award of 3000 € will be given to the best paper. The winner will be invited as a special ERA-NET NEURON Young Investigator lecturer at the FENS FORUM in Milan, July 2014.

The call with detailed information will be published in the ERA-NET NEURON website later in June.


Updated Programmes for Neuroscience Training and Schools by FENS

FENS will launch its new programme for European higher education – schools and training courses in 2014. The programme, which will be fully implemented by 2015, will build on popular features from the foregoing FENS-IBRO European Neuroscience Schools programme and integrate activities from across multiple educational areas within FENS.

The new FENS educational programmes will in 2014 among other activities include high-level theoretical schools, advanced training courses, and scholarships to neuroscience courses offered by national graduate school programmes.

Follow further announcements on the homepage of FENS (www.fens.org/training)


FENS invites member societies, scientists or organizations topropose topics for FENS schools in 2014.

Two schools will be organized in 2014: one winter school in collaboration with the Hertie Foundation and one summer school in collaboration with the Society for Neuroscience(SfN). 

A selection board consisting of FENS committee members and partner representatives is tasked with the responsibility to select topics and organizers for the schools. The board, which will meet in July 2013, will consider all submitted suggestions and proposals in their final selection of topics and organizers. 

Duration of the school: approximately 6 days
Format: one summer and one winter school per year, with a maximum of 30 students and young scientists per school. 

Submit your ideas online by June 23, 2013 at the latest!



9th FENS Forum of Neuroscience July 5 – 9, 2014, Milan Italy

The application for Satellite events, Social and Business meetings around and during the FENS Forum is open. FENS encourages interested parties to organize any number of business meetings, socials or satellite events that, depending on the type of activity, may take place either before, during or after the FENS Forum 2014 in Milan. Apply or submit your proposals before October 31, 2013 via online application forms available on the FENS Forum 2014 website.

Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark presented the world’s largest brain research prize

The Brain Prize – the world’s largest brain research prize of one million euros – was awarded this year for the development of a revolutionary technique – optogenetics – which deepens our understanding of the brain and its diseases.

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik presented on 2 May 2013 the Prize to the winners – six leading brain researchers from four different countries. The Prize was presented at a ceremony at the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen in the presence of numerous Danish and international guests, including the Danish Minister for Science, Innovation and Higher Education Morten Østergaard and ambassadors from the home countries of the prize winners.


The 6 awardees of The Brain Prize 2013

The 6 awardees of The Brain Prize 2013 (from left to right):
Ernst Bamberg, Ed Boyden, Karl Deisseroth, Peter Hegemann,
Gero Miesenböck and Georg Nagel



The Brain Prize 2013

Call for Nominations 2014

Established by the Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation, The Brain Prize is intended to raise the visibility of European neuroscience and to be a stimulus to this important field of research. Nominations are expected until September 15, 2013. For the nomination form and details of the nomination procedure, please visit: www.thebrainprize.org







Published quarterly by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS)


Editorial Board  
FENS Communication and Publication Committee

  • Javier Cudeiro
  • Malgorzata Kossut
  • Flavio Moroni
  • Kiki Thermos (Chair)
  • Yves Tillet


Editorial Staff  
Mihaela Vincze


Opinions expressed in the FENS Trimestrial Newsletter do not necessarily reflect those of its officers and councilors. FENS is not responsible for the content of this publication.


FENS Officers  
President: Marian Joëls 
Secretary-General: Sigismund Huck 
Treasurer: Michael G. Stewart 


For inquiries, suggestions or comments on FENS newsletter, please contact: mihaela.vincze@fens.org

© 2013 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies