Organizer: Amir Ayali (School of Zoology, Tel Aviv University)

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The emergence of novel group-level behaviors has been described in terms such as “swarm intelligence” or the “mind of the swarm”, referring to the congruence in behavior of swarms composed of many different individuals. Quintessential examples include, swarms of locust, schools of fish, flocks of birds, human crowds, and even artificial autonomous agents (swarming robots). The challenge lies in deciphering and connecting the dynamic interactions between the behavior of individuals, the coordinated activity of group or crowds, and the environment. Specifically, very little knowledge has been gained regarding the neural basis of the decision making and behaviour of the individual, allowing coordination and synchronization among the group. This symposium will comprise very recent findings, presenting novel insights into this important aspect of collective behavior. Advances in the study of collective behavior have always been the result of interdisciplinary collaborative efforts, where experimental work combines with theoretical modelling, and both support engineering endeavors. Accordingly, the research presented in this symposium will include various techniques, from electrophysiology, via virtual reality and robotics, to molecular biology.


Barry Condron (University of Virginia, Charlottesville, USA): Mechanisms of cooperative behavior of Drosophila larvae

Herwig Baier (Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried, Germany): Deciphering social interactions in zebrafish using virtual reality assay

Pratibha Yadav (Tel Aviv University, Israel): Sensorimotor perception and integration of multiple-simultaneous visual stimuli in locust swarming behavior

Martin Worm (University of Bonn, Germany): Collective behaviour and electrocommunication in the weakly electric fish


Organizers: Catherine Carr (University of Maryland, USA), Jakob Christensen-Dalsgaard (University of Southern Denmark)

Moderator, introduction: Christine Köppl (University of Oldenburg, Germany)

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It has been difficult to form coherent hypotheses about the observed variation in sound localization circuits in vertebrate auditory systems, but recently some of the confusion has been resolved in a way that focuses attention on neural coding of sound location. First, the eardrum and middle ear structures evolved independently, and from different elements, in mammalian and diapsid lineages. Second, work on lungfish provided insights into what the common ancestors of terrestrial vertebrates could hear and how they might have responded to sounds such as substrate vibrations. Third, new work suggests the first order auditory nuclei evolved independently in birds and mammals, resulting in a mixture of conserved, divergent and convergent features. Lastly, the different availability of binaural cues imposed distinct constraints on the “new” binaural circuits in the brainstem. We will emphasize the convergent nature of neuronal mechanisms to show how this understanding increases the explanatory power of studies of spatial processing in the vertebrate auditory system.


Jakob Christensen-Dalsgaard (South Denmark University, Denmark): Work on amphibian and reptile brainstem, evolution of hearing.

Christine Köppl (University of Oldenburg, Germany): Work on avian first order nuclei, evolution of hearing.

Benedikt Grothe (Ludwig-Maximilian-University, Munich, Germany): Theories of brainstem evolution, physiological and anatomical approaches to mammalian auditory brainstem.

Marcela Lipovsek (University of London, UK): Avian and mammalian cochlear nuclei.


Organizers:Erik Zornik (Reed College, USA; and Boris Chagnaud (University of Graz, Austria;

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Motoneurons are traditionally considered the last relay from the central nervous system to muscle control in a given motor behavior. Rhythm-generating circuits, Central Pattern Generators (CPGs), send projections to motoneurons, which in turn project to and generate appropriate muscle contractions. However, in several species and motor systems, there is evidence accumulating that motoneurons play a more complex role in pattern generation itself. These studies have changed the existing dogma of motoneurons being only a relay station between the CNS and the periphery, and have shown that motoneurons directly influence the circuits responsible for pattern generation. Motoneurons can influence premotor circuits, via axon collaterals or electrical coupling, to modulate premotor circuit activity. Studies of central circuits in highly diverged species – including Drosophila, C. elegans, leeches, crustaceans, rodents, fish, and frogs – have indicated a crucial role of motoneuron feedback in maintaining normal behavior patterns dictated by central pattern generator activity.

In this symposium, talks will explore current studies examining the role of motoneuron feedback activity across many different taxa and behaviors, and will examine how widespread motoneuron participation in motor circuits may be. The broad diversity of animal models in this symposium will highlight the importance of motor-premotor neuron interactions in patterning of motor activity across animals, which will encourage the audience to consider potential divergence and convergence of motor circuits across the animal phylogeny.


Charlotte Barkan (Reed College, USA): The role of motoneurons in vocal patterning in the vocal circuit of different species of Xenopus frogs.

Abdeljabbar El Manira (Karolinska Institute, Sweden): The involvement of motoneurons in the patterning of spinal locomotor patterns in zebrafish.

Akinao Nose (Tokyo University, Japan): Insights into how interneurons and motoneurons interact in Drosophila locomotor circuits to generate adaptive locomotor patterns.

Lidia Szczupak (University of Buenos Aires, Argentina): How motoneurons in leeches contribute to the patterning of crawling behavior.


Organizers: Martin Giurfa (Toulouse, France), Patrizia d‘Ettorre (Villetaneuse, Paris, France)

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The symposium will propose a redefinition of the concept of pheromone based on novel, cumulative behavioral and neurobiological evidence. Given the traditional and long-established view that confines pheromones to an exclusive species-wide communication role independent of experience, the discussion about novel pheromonal functions modulating experience-dependent behavior proposed in this symposium constitutes, in our opinion, an innovation in biological thinking. Pheromones are defined as chemical messengers that are released to the environment by a sender and that induce changes in behavior of a receiver of the same species. They constitute the ubiquitous mode of information transfer among animal species and occur in multiple behavioral contexts such as food and mate search, predator avoidance, territoriality and navigation. The response to pheromones is, by definition, stereotyped and independent of experience. Yet, recent work, in both vertebrates and invertebrates, has revealed an unsuspected role of pheromones, namely their capacity to modulate learning and memory formation, beyond the original communication context for which they evolved. Here we propose to focus on this “non-canonical” role of pheromones and discuss if and how pheromones affect cognitive behaviors that are in principle unrelated to the chemical message conveyed. The fact that pheromones may facilitate or inhibit associative learning and memory formation deserves, in our opinion, a broadening of the definition of pheromone action and role, and a discussion of the mechanisms underlying this modulation.


Carmen Agustin-Pavon (University of Valencia, Spain):Sexual pheromones, reward and learning in female rodents

David Baracchi (University of Florence, Italy): Pheromones modulate learning and memory retention in honey bees according to their valence

Qi Yuan (Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada): Pheromone communication of odor-specific fear in rats

Lisa Stowers (Scripps Research Institute, Florida, USA): The role of learning and memory on pheromone-promoted scent marking behavior in the mouse


Organizer:Kathleen S. Lynch (Hofstra University)

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Avian obligate brood parasites do not build their own nests, incubate the eggs or provision the young. Instead, these birds deposit and leave their eggs in the nest of another species and evade the many fitness costs of parental care. However, this type of social parasitism comes with a set of new ecological and behavioral challenges both for the juvenile and for the adult brood parasite. Here, we will address the neural, hormonal, developmental, and genomic mechanisms associated with meeting these challenges.  This symposium will explore the neural and molecular modifications associated with losing maternal care in female brood parasites. Brood parasitic behavior entails an increased need for spatial memory allowing female brood parasites to seek out and remember the location of active host nests. Brood parasitism also poses a unique challenge for social recognition and social learning as the developing young parasites are raised in nests without conspecifics. Dr. Kathleen Lynch will present studies of brain nucleus-specific transcriptome comparisons between brood parasitic cowbirds and closely-related non-parasitic species as well as studies on the role of prolactin, the “parental care hormone”, in brood parasitic species. These studies will provide an overview of what we understand so far about the molecular, neural and hormonal modifications associated with female loss of maternal care. Dr. Mélanie Guigueno will present studies on the female adult parasite’s spatial memory as well as doublecortin measurements in the hippocampus that point to ecologically-relevant neurogenesis as a factor allowing females to exhibit excellent spatial memory skills involved in finding and remembering host nest locations. Dr. Mark Hauber will present behavioral and ontogenetic studies on social recognition in brood parasitic cowbirds with accompanying data demonstrating neural representation of unlearned vocalizations in the auditory forebrain regions. He will assess the status of a “password” mechanism potentially underlying species recognition in brood parasitic species raised without conspecific referents. Finally, Dr. Christopher Balakrishnan will discuss the genomic, neurotranscriptomic, modifications in auditory forebrain regions involved in social recognition in brood parasites, including those that may be involved in password-based species recognition.  Studies of host-brood parasite co-evolutionary arms-races nearly all focus on high-profile aspects of behavioral ecology. Together, our aims re-focus this discourse on mechanistic and ontogenetic explanations of brood parasitic behavior; two perspectives that are long overdue. Through these studies, avian brood parasitism will finally be addressed from each of Tinbergen’s four perspectives (i.e. development, causation, function, and phylogeny), thereby building an integrated understanding for the evolution of this novel behavioral phenotype


Kathleen Lynch (Hofstra University, USA): Neural and molecular basis for loss of maternal care in female brood parasites

Mélanie Guigueno (McGill University, Canada): Spatial memory and hippocampal neurogenesis in the nest-searching female brood parasite

Mark Hauber (University of Illinois, USA): Developmental and neurobiological basis of species recognition in brood parasitic birds

Matt McKim-Louder (University of Tokyo, Japan): Neurogenomic mechanisms of social recognition in brood parasites


Organizers:Michael Mangan (Univ. of Sheffield, UK); Antoine Wystrach, (CNRS, France)

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The crux of neuroethology is to consider the neural mechanisms that give rise to complex behaviour in natural environments. Yet, many of the most advanced methods to probe behavioural mechanisms remain consigned to the laboratory. The field of insect navigation is bucking this trend by developing novel methods that blur the lines between laboratory and field studies, delivering significant advances in our understanding.

This symposium will bring together world-leaders from technical and biological disciplines to describe new in-field methodologies and the impact they have had on insect navigation research. Talks will offer a perspective on recent trends and look ahead to future directions in order to stimulate debate in the meeting. The focus on emergent technologies and their impact is particularly timely and innovative, with an integrative view ensured by securing speakers from disparate academic specialisms & locations. ICN is the ideal venue for this symposium as its worldwide reach ensures a rare meeting of experts from all corners of the globe with a shared research goal.


Benjamin Risse (University of Münster, Germany): Tracking individual untagged insects in the wild and creating photorealistic 3D maps of their natural habitat.

Jochen Zeil (Australian National University, Australia): The Antarium: Manipulating the Visual World of Navigating Insects.

Yuri Ogawa (Macquarie University, Australia): In field pharmacology and lab electrophysiology techniques to identify sensory systems and navigation neuropils in the insect brain.

Andy Philippides (University of Sussex, UK): Brains-on-board robots: testing embodied neural circuits in the wild.


Organizer: Vivek Nityananda (Newcastle University)

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The classical model of sensory behaviour posits that an organism receives an external stimulus which then elicits a specific response in a stereotypical fashion. However, several recent studies have shown that an organism’s response is not stereotypical but also depends on its behavioural state. Such state-dependent responses have been shown in a range of species including primates, mice and insects. Importantly, these state-dependent responses have been argued to be analogous to responses that are dependent on attention. Thus, behavioural states, such as flying or walking, could be on a continuum with more psychological states such as attention. The study of selective attention in invertebrates has, however, progressed relatively independent of the study of state-dependent behaviour. Much recent progress in the neural and genetic basis of selective attention in multiple systems shows that this is an important, growing field. The goal of this symposium is to bring together experts in these two fields to discuss how state-dependency and selective attention could inform each other and how we can enhance studies in both fields by sharing theoretical ideas and techniques.


Sara Wasserman (Wellesley College, USA): How fly brains integrate internal and external states to guide behaviour in response to a stimulus.

Gaby Maimon (Rockefeller University, USA): How flying modulates vision, similarities between attention and behavioural state modulations of visual physiology.

Bruno van Swinderen (Queensland Brain Institute, Australia): Genetic and neurobiological tools to investigate attention in flies and bees and how it relates to states of sleep and consciousness.

Natasha Mhatre (Western University, Canada): Biophysics of mechanosensory perception is tuned both by internal behavioural states and external environmental states in crickets and spiders.


Organizer: Laura Quintana (Instituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente Estable, Uruguay)

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The aim of the symposium is to bring together data from four research lines on steroid modulation of sexual and aggressive behavior carried out in mammals, birds and teleost fish, to illustrate how studying behavior and the social brain areas involved across sexes and seasons has brought forth new ideas on hormone modulation of behavior.

Hormones, key agents of biological coordination, have long been known to affect and be affected by behavior. In the last twenty years, novel data have emerged that contribute to the existing foundation built upon the study of the role of steroid hormones in male breeding behavior. Current approaches have included three non-traditional standpoints: 1. female sexual behavior and aggression 2. social behaviors uncoupled from the breeding season and 3. the effects of brain-derived hormones. Research with these focuses has opened new avenues to understand the diversity of steroid modulation upon social behavior.


Kiran Soma (University of British Columbia, Canada): Role of brain-derived steroids in the regulation of non-breeding aggression in male song sparrows.

Greg Demas (Indiana University, USA): Seasonal transitions in neuroendocrinological mechanisms underlying year-long aggression in male and female hamsters.

Charlotte Cornil (University of Liège, Belgium): Relevance of brain-derived estrogens in female sexual behavior in the quail model.

Laura Quintana (Instituto Clemente Estable, Uruguay): First teleost fish model of non-breeding aggression and the role of brain-derived hormones across sex and seasons.


Organizer: Lidia Szczupak (Instituto de Fisiología Biología Molecular y Neurociencias, UBA-CONICET Buenos Aires, Argentina)

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Animal behavior is guided by a combination of multiple sensory cues present in the natural environment. In most cases behavior is driven not by a single but by multiple signals. Recent progress in our understanding of multisensory integration has emerged from a wide diversity of studies spanning from cellular levels to behavior, and in a wide variety of organisms, from invertebrates to vertebrates. This symposium will present advances that range from sensory integration along single command cells to integration across multiple cells in specific brain regions. The combination of techniques that allow precise subcellular mapping of activity with simultaneous recording of multiple neurons has provided this field with tools to evaluate the mechanisms by which the nervous system process salient and subtle signals from the ecosystem to extract the necessary information to carry out successfully a variety of vital functions. A more comprehensive approach that incorporates the concept of multi-signal integration and the neuronal computations that endow circuits with such properties will allow a more realistic understanding of the process that drives decision-making.


Ethan Scott (University of Queensland, Australia): Sensory Processing in Larval Zebrafish: Perspectives From Whole-brain Calcium Imaging

Marta Zlatic (Janelia Research Campus, Virginia, USA): Circuit principles of action selection in Drosophila

Violeta Medan (University of Buenos Aires, Argentina): Multisensory integration in the context of escape, from cell circuits to behavior

Jeffrey M. Yau (Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, USA): Distributed multisensory processing systems for temporal frequency integration


Organizers:  Barry Trimmer (Biology Department, Tufts University); John Long (Cognitive Science, Vassar College)

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In the last decade there have been important advances in our understanding of animal movements that have helped engineers to design more capable and adaptive robots. To build these bio inspired machines, engineers are exploring new scientific and technological approaches that are not widely used in biology. This includes the emerging fields of soft robotics, evolutionary robotics and computational simulation.

This symposium will highlight the advances being made in bio-robotics and the challenges of building machines that behave like animals. Speakers will focus on the impact of neuromechanics and embodiment on the design and control of robots. These engineering approaches have in turn yielded important insights and tools that can be applied to neuroethological problems. A major goal of the symposium is to bring together engineers and biologists working on the mechanisms of adaptive behavior to discuss the most recent cutting-edge research in their respective fields. Understanding how animals navigate and move around in the world is now having a major impact in the field of robotics. We will present the leading edge of research into bioinspired sensors, soft materials and neural control systems and their application to robots designed to operate in natural environments. Key questions will include, the role of central commands and distributed controls in complex movements, biomechanical interactions between animals and their environment and how evolutionary processes can shape an animal’s body and behavior.


Tony Prescott (University of Sheffield, UK): Social cognition in robots, active touch sensing for attention, orienting, and spatial memory, and human-robot interaction.

Kirstin H. Petersen (Cornell University, USA): Bio-inspired robotics; soft robotics; swarm intelligence; bio-cyber physical systems; autonomous construction.

Auke Ijspeert (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland): The intersection between robotics, computational neuroscience, nonlinear dynamical systems, and applied machine learning.

Barbara Webb (University of Edinburgh):  Navigation in insects and robots


Organizer: Michael Yartsev (University of California Berkeley)

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This symposium aims to present and discuss the role of hippocampus in representing 3D space during navigation across a diverse set of mammalian taxa – rodents, lemurs, bats and primates. Specifically, the speakers will highlight both the similarities and differences in hippocampal function evident across these organisms and their respective relationship to the species’ ethology. The presented data will also combine methodologies spanning from ethological studies in the animal’s natural environment, computational modeling and experimental neurophysiological interrogation. Combined, this symposium will highlight the importance of a comparative approach in studies of the neural mechanisms underlying spatial navigation.


Daniel Huber (University of Geneva, Switzerland): Wireless recordings from mouse lemurs freely foraging in three-dimensional naturalistic environments.

Kate Jeffrey (University College London, UK): Rodent spatial navigation during self-induced movement in three-dimensional space.

Cory Miller (University of California San Diego, USA): Hippocampal spatial encoding in freely-moving marmoset.

Michael Yartsev (University of California Berkeley, USA): A novel representation of 3D space in the hippocampal formation of freely foraging bats (Egyptian fruit bats)


Organizer: Hermann Wagner (University of Aachen, Germany)

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Sensation and orientation are two key features of animal behavior. This symposium shall honor two colleagues who left big footsteps in our understanding of the neuro-ethology of these two tasks. Both, the late Barrie Frost and the late Jack Pettigrew published landmark work on sensory processing. Seminal insight into stereo vision and looming in model organisms like the cat and the pigeon is tied to their career. Likewise, the two were always attracted by more exotic living beings like the monarch butterfly, the Australian bugong moth, the tengmalm’s owl, plathypus, fruit bats, and frogmouths to name but a few. The symposium tries to cover aspects of the research of these two colleagues that up to today persist as hot topics in 4 talks. Henrik Mouritsen (Oldenburg, Germany) will talk about navigational strategies in birds and insects, while Eric Warrant (Lund Sweden) will specifically report on the latest findings on the mechanism underlying long-distance navigation in the Australian bugong moth. On the other hand, Mika Calford (Canberra Australia) will highlight specific adaptations of Australian animal models in vision, touch and hearing, while Leah Krubitzer (Davis, USA) will talk about cortical plasticity within and across lifetime. The symposium will also show that research beyond current model systems uncovers effective adaptations acquired through selection pressures in evolution. Understanding such solutions from a mechanistic point of view offers opportunities for biomimetic and translational applications.


Eric Warrant (Lund University, Sweden): The Australian Bogong moth: an extraordinary nocturnal long-distance navigator

Henrik Mouritsen (University of Oldenburg, Germany): Navigation in birds and insects

Leah Krubitzer (University of California at Davis, USA): Cortical plasticity within and across lifetime

Michael Calford (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia): Australian Animal models in Vision, Touch and Hearing