Society for Neuroscience 2014

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The world’s largest meeting of neuroscientists was recently held in Washington, DC. Wings for Life’s scientific coordinator, Dr. Rosi Lederer, was there and gives us a first-hand account of what it felt like to be part of it.

There’s an icy wind howling outside while I’m waiting to be transferred to Washington Dulles International Airport. It was only ten minutes ago that I left Fiona Doetsch’s Presidential Special Lecture on endogenous neural stem cells at the 2014 Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), which is the largest conference for neuroscience researchers in the world.

About 30,00 neuroscientists from every corner of the globe come every year to the SfN meeting, which is alternately held in Washington, San Diego and Chicago. For a full five days, from 8 in the morning till 6 in the evening, there are hundreds of lectures and symposia addressing a great variety of topics in neuroscience to be attended in the numerous lecture halls of the gigantic Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Thousands of posters showcasing latest neuroscientific research in a visual nutshell are being presented and discussed amongst colleagues. If you want to find your way through the sheer overwhelming wealth of events and pick the right lecture and venue to meet your particular interest, you need to come prepared, which means studying the programme for each day in detail to build your own personal itinerary.


There are long distances to be covered when you rush from one lecture hall to the next. At one of the snack bars, I get myself a cup of coffee. With all nearby seats taken, I decide to catch my breath on the stairs of the Convention Center, savouring my coffee. My head is spinning - I’ve had my fair share of science for today, and the jet lag has left me sleep-deprived. I’ve spent a full three days here at the SfN conference – attending meetings with colleagues from other foundations, such as the ISRT (International Spinal Research Trust) or the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. I’ve taken part in a number of workshops, meeting some of the scientists whose research is supported by Wings for Life. What I found particularly thrilling and inspiring for my work was the series of lectures on the topic of neural regeneration, organised and chaired by Zhigang He and Jeff Goldberg, but also new prospects and findings on the subject of in vivo programming. Amongst this year’s special and featured lectures were Thomas Jessell’s, addressing the subject of Circuits and Strategies for Skilled Motor Behaviour, Tadashi Ida’s touching on The brain is needed to cure spinal cord injury, and Fiona Doetsch’s lecture on Stem Cells in the Brain: Glial Identity and Niches.

Tired and exhausted, but at the same time perfectly content, I’m about to set off on my journey home, hoping to spend most of the flight sound asleep.