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): Regulating cooperative behavior.

Itay Bleichman (School of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Israel): Perception and integration of multiple simultaneous visual inputs in locust swarming.

Julie Elie (University of California, Berkeley, USA): Cortical coding of communication calls serving social interactions.

Herwig Baier (Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried, Germany): Zebrafish shoaling: Visual recognition of conspecifics by a tecto-thalamic neural circuit.

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


Organizers: Susanne Hoffmann (Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence (in Foundation), Germany); Julio Hechavarria (Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, Germany)

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Different vertebrate taxa have evolved an active sensing system called echolocation. By broadcasting self-generated sounds and analyzing their echoes, which are reflected from nearby objects, echolocators can detect and classify these objects and finally navigate through structured environments. Even though echolocation behavior and its neural underpinnings have been studied for a long time, many open questions still remain. This symposium offers an overview of the progress that has been currently made towards answering the question how animals and humans find their way within 3D environments using echo-acoustic cues only. By bringing together experts who work with various model systems (birds, bats, humans) and techniques (neurophysiology, bioacoustics, psychophysics, fMRI) within the field of behavioral neurobiology, our symposium will provide a particularly integrative view on the question outlined above.


Susanne Hoffmann (Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence (in Foundation), Germany): Echolocation-specific specializations in Oilbirds.

Clarice Diebold (Johns Hopkins University, USA): Neural underpinnings of auditory motion tracking.

Aya Goldshtein (Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Germany): Do bats use echolocation for large-scale navigation.

Lore Thaler (Durham University, UK): Echo-Acoustic Behaviour and Brain Activity in People.


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.


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

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

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

Josefina del Mármol (Harvard Medical School, Harvard, USA): Sensing scents: structural mechanism of odor recognition in insect olfactory receptors.


Catherine Carr (University of Maryland, USA), Jakob Christensen-Dalsgaard (University of Southern Denmark); Introduction: Christine Köppl (University of Oldenburg, Germany)

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How did land vertebrates evolve to localize sound? 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. The key to the puzzle is that the eardrum and middle ear structures evolved independently, and from different elements, in mammalian and diapsid lineages. We discuss first what the common ancestors of terrestrial vertebrates might have heard.  Second, studies of lizards, alligators and birds reveal different strategies for neural coding of sound source location. Third, evo-devo 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 (University of Southern Denmark, Denmark): Hearing with a non-tympanic ear; implications for the evolution of hearing.

Catherine Carr (University of Maryland, USA): Directional hearing in birds, crocodilians and lizards.

Marcela Lipovsek (University of London, UK): – A developmental perspective on the conservation, divergence and convergence of sound localisation circuits.

Benedikt Grothe (Ludwig-Maximilian-University, Munich, Germany): The spatial representations of sound position in the mammalian auditory cortex.


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 bogong moth, the tengmalm’s owl, plathypus, fruit bats, frogmouths, and Tibetian monks 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, specifically their magnetic compass, while Eric Warrant (Lund Sweden) will report on the latest findings on the mechanism underlying long-distance navigation in the Australian bogong moth. On the other hand, Thomas Cronin (Baltimore, USA) will highlight eye-movement strategies in birds and mantis shrimps. Finally, Justin Marshall (Brisbane, Australia) will talk about the inspiring enthusiasm and his extraordinary ideas that influenced the careers of many scientists. In this way Jack also sparked research beyond current model systems and pioneered how such research may uncover 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): How the stars and the Earth’s magnetic field guide the long migratory journey of an Australian moth – a tribute to Professor Barrie Frost.

Henrik Mouritsen (University of Oldenburg, Germany): Quantum Birds: The Magnetic Compass Sense of night-migratory Songbirds.

Tom Cronin (University of Maryland, Baltimore, USA): Remembering Barrie Frost and Jack Pettigrew:  Eye movements in birds and in the weird, typically Australian creatures, mantis shrimps.

Justin Marshall (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia): Jack Pettigrew – the secret to a successful scientific career.


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): Exploring the role of motor feedback in vocal evolution.

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

Kohji Hotta (Keio University, Japan): A single motor neuron determines the rhythm of early motor behavior in Ciona.

Lidia Szczupak (University of Buenos Aires, Argentina): Motoneurons modulate leech motor pattern through central connections.


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.


Lars Haalck (University of Munster, Germany): Quantifying insect behaviour in the wild – Fully automatic tracking and habitat reconstruction from a single hand-held camera.

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

Ayse Yilmaz (Lund University, Sweden): In field neural manipulations to investigate the basis of working memory for insect navigation.

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


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 honeybees according to their valence.

Patrizia d‘Ettorre (Villetaneuse, Paris, France): The alarm pheromone, formic acid, increases nestmate recognition efficiency in ants.

Lisa Stowers (Scripps Research Institute, Florida, USA): Circuits and mechanisms of pheromone-evoked courtship behavior in the mouse.


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): Active Touch Sensing in Mammals and Robots.

Kirstin H. Petersen (Cornell University, USA): Designing Robotic Systems with Collective Embodied Intelligence.

Auke Ijspeert (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland): Exploring the interaction of feedforward and feedback control in the spinal cord using biorobots.

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


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 aggression 2. social behaviors uncoupled from the breeding season and 3. the effects of brain-derived hormones on aggressive and sexual behaviors. 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): Neurosteroids and territorial aggression in a songbird.

Greg Demas (Indiana University, USA): Winter madness: the neuroendocrine regulation of seasonal aggression.

Charlotte Cornil (University of Liège, Belgium): Role of neuroestrogens in the control of male sexual behavior.

Laura Quintana (Instituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente Estable, Uruguay): Neuroendocrine modulation of aggression: contributions from a wild electric fish.


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): Closed-loop neuroethology in freely foraging mouse lemurs.

Kate Jeffery (University College London, UK): Environmental influences on the neural encoding of 3D space – insights from rats.

Cory Miller (University of California San Diego, USA): Representing Space in Marmoset Hippocampus.

Michael Yartsev (University of California Berkeley, USA): Neural Representations Across Time and Space in the Hippocampus of Freely Flying Bats.


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): Short-term water deprivation modulates hygrosensory and visually-evoked behaviors in flying flies.

Gaby Maimon (Rockefeller University, USA): Muscles that move the retina augment compound-eye vision in Drosophila.

Bruno van Swinderen (Queensland Brain Institute, Australia): A role for active sleep in regulating selective attention and evolving 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.