It's easier together. MITT/ANA joint conference
The first joint conference of the Hungarian Neuroscience Society (MITT) and the Austrian Neuroscience Society (ANA) took place at the Headquarters of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, between 1-3 February 2023.
The idea that two small countries organize a conference together is not something new, but something that is rediscovered from time to time. Today, long-standing collaborations between Austrian and Hungarian neuroscientists have matured into a situation where the Hungarian Neuroscience Society (MITT) and the Austrian Neuroscience Society (ANA) organize a joint conference.
This first event took place in one of the best-known and most beautiful 19th-century public buildings of our capital and country, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, between 1-3 February 2023.
A more worthy venue could hardly have been chosen to launch or strengthen scientific relations and show our appreciation for our invited guests. The participants were aware of this, and not only when they listened to the lectures in the Assembly Hall, walked around the building during the coffee break, or studied the posters in the beautiful rooms on the two floors of the building. Looking out of the windows, they were treated to a spectacular view, and even the weather put on a show. The dazzling sunset over the Danube on Thursday, the panorama of Buda in early spring one day, and in fabulous snowfall the next. It couldn't have been better organized, as it's hard to complain about the cold outside in the first days of February.
Around a quarter of the nearly 400 participants came from abroad, and of these, 80 were members of ANA, which has far fewer members than MITT. The scientific program started at 9 a.m., and the scientific programs for all three days began and ended with plenary lectures by internationally renowned scientists invited by the organizing committee. It is not always possible to ask questions after the plenary lectures at conferences, but here it was possible after the lecture that ended at 7 pm, and both the lecturer and the audience deserve credit, because there were always questions after 12 lectures a day and after the walk-through and scientific dialogues between the 87 posters. At a conference, there are at least as many major research topics as there are symposia, and within those, as many research topics as there are presentations. For someone who is not familiar with a research topic, its tools, its terminology, its mathematics, its background, it is never easy, sometimes downright difficult, to follow such a presentation. There is no lecturer who needs more obvious proof of the success of a lecture than the never-ending stream of questions that follow, even from people who are obviously not working in that field. We have also had such lectures.
Nearly a third of the papers presented at the MITT/ANA conference was related to the neuroscience of behavior or social behavior, although the number of papers and the basic question and the tools used to answer it were at least as many. One such presentation, a plenary talk by Christian Keysers from Amsterdam entitled "A cross-species approach to the neural basis of empathy and prosociality", was perhaps the biggest "audience hit". The simplicity of the wording, the emphasis on the essentials, the well-edited illustrations, the illustrative videos, the "timeliness" of the topic, and the fact that it was somehow personal to all present, all combined to make it a great success. Not only were there many questions, which the speaker answered tirelessly, but the topic was also discussed in several conversations the following day. Not by chance. The 'cross-species' referred to in the title goes all the way down to the human being, and the fact that empathy can be learned, even taught to a sociopath, offers some hope for a brighter future than the present.
Thursday evening's program was of particular importance for our Austrian colleagues. The prize named after Otto Loewi, the Austrian-American pharmacologist and physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1936 for his discovery of chemical neurotransmission, was awarded. This prestigious biannual award for outstanding scientific work in the neurosciences is given by the ANA to a researcher under the age of 40.
This year, the Otto Loewi Prize was awarded to Dr. Noelia Urban, who gave a highly acclaimed lecture on "Local and systemic regulation of adult neurogenesis", another topic of public interest.
An exceptional distinction was also awarded. The Austrian Pioneer of Neuroscience Award was given to Prof. Dr. Alois Saria in recognition of his lifelong commitment and outstanding contribution to neuroscience. Congratulations to both recipients!
The poster prizes were also awarded on Friday, the final day of the three-day conference. The authors of the three posters out of the 262 poster presentations selected for the awards are also well deserving of recognition: Dávid Keller, Semmelweis Egyetem, Budapest, Olena KIim, IST Klosterneuburg, Aleksandra Garifulina, Univ. Wien.
On behalf of the organizers, the conference co-chairs, Isabella Sarto-Jackson and Zoltán Nusser promised an outstanding and thematically balanced event, presenting groundbreaking results. At the end of the event, the unanimous view of the participants was that this promise had been fulfilled.