Public Release: 

Meet Europe's top neurobiologists in Leuven, Belgium

VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)

Leuven, Belgium − From 2 - 6 September, some 370 neurobiologists from 25 countries will gather in Leuven to address the state of affairs of current research. A great deal of attention will be paid to the use of the fruit fly (Drosophila) for gaining greater insight into various processes in the brain and the nervous system. Patrick Callaerts and Bassem Hassan, scientists from VIB (the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology) connected to the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, are organizing this 11th European Drosophila Neurobiology Conference. Over the long term, bringing the top neurobiologists together will create a base for developing treatments for a large number of diseases. You are kindly invited to attend this conference, or a portion of it. An area will be provided for interviews with the speakers.

An international conference

To emphasize the importance of the use of Drosophila in neurobiological research, Patrick Callaerts and Bassem Hassan are organizing the 11th European Drosophila Neurobiology Conference from 2 to 6 September 2006. Each day of the conference is devoted to a particular theme, which is then developed in a variety of presentations and poster sessions.

Here are the themes for each day: Saturday, 2 September, 'Early development'; Sunday, 3 September, 'Specification and differentiation of neurons and glia'; Monday, 4 September, 'Formation and function of the neural circuits'; Tuesday, 5 September, 'Plasticity and behavior'; and Wednesday, 6 September, 'Neural dysfunction'. In addition to the 11 invited speakers (overviews of their presentations are attached here), another 80 scientists will give presentations about their research and 192 researchers will present their work by means of posters.

370 delegates from 25 different countries will participate in the conference, where prominent scientists in the field of neurobiology will present their vision of current research. The conference will focus on Drosophila neurobiology, but the neurobiologists using other model systems will be presenting as well. This multidisciplinary approach builds bridges between different research methods, thus promoting advancement in fundamental insights into human neurobiology. Over the long term, this approach will certainly help create a powerful base for the development of treatments for major diseases.

Neurobiology, the science of the brain and nervous system Our brains are constructed of 100 billion individual cells that communicate with each other via a complex network of connections. We are beginning to understand which processes are involved, how neurons make connections, and which chemical substances they use to communicate − but the brain remains a mystery.

The brain and the nervous system are delicate systems, and so sometimes something goes fundamentally wrong, giving rise to a brain or nervous disease. Neurons in the brain, in the spinal cord, and elsewhere can die off and thus cause Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), or peripheral neuropathies. Bacterial or viral infections of the brain can lead to meningitis, a serious inflammation of the brain. Obstructed blood flow can cause a stroke, and tumors can result in structural damage to the brain. Some disorders − including disturbances in thinking, the emotions or behavior − have less apparent organic origins and are usually classified as mental or psychological disorders. Better understanding of these diseases is a first step toward finding solutions. Neurobiologists are occupied with these matters every day.

Tiny fruit fly, tremendous model

The fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) is a perfect model for a number of human problems − even for diseases of the human brain. Furthermore, they are easy to experiment with: they take up very little space, and they do not require expensive animal facilities. That's why this small fly is in great demand as a model organism in neurobiology. Patrick Callaerts and Bassem Hassan gladly use the Drosophila in their own neurobiological research.

Invitation to journalists We are pleased to invite you to this special event, featuring the top players in the field of neurobiology in Europe. Participation is free of charge for journalists. If you wish to attend the conference, or a part of it, please register with Mimi Deprez:, tel. +32 476 72 68 59.

If you are interested in having an interview with one of the speakers, please state this explicitly, so that a time and location can be assigned and communicated. An interview is only possible on the day that the speaker gives his/her speech.


You can find the entire program on

Invited speakers

  • Prof. Yves-Alain Barde, University of Basel, Biozentrum Neurotrophins and their roles in mammals, 02/09/06, 18.00 - 18.30
  • Prof. Juan Modolell, Biological Molecular Center, Madrid José Campos Ortega Memorial Lecture, The achaete-scute complex: a 25 year love-affair with proneural genes, 02/09/06, 19.30 - 20.30
  • Dr. Andrea Brand, Cambridge University Regeneration and repair of the nervous system, 03/09/06, 9.00 - 10.00
  • Prof. Silvia Arber, Biozentrum, University of Basel & FMI, Basel Genetic specification of sensory-motor connectivity in the developing spinal cord, 03/09/06, 12.00 - 12.30
  • Prof. Carlos Dotti, VIB - K.U.Leuven Axon-dendrite growth axis is specified at the mitotic stage, through the polarized membrane and cytoskeletal organization mastered by the centrosome, 03/09/06, 19.30 -20.00
  • Prof. Michael Bate, Cambridge University The emergence and specification of function in the developing nervous system, 0409/06, 9.00 - 10.00
  • Prof. Peter Mombaerts, Rockefeller University, New York Olfaction targeted, 04/09/06, 12.00 - 12.30
  • Prof. Axel Borst, Max-Planck-Institute Neurobiology Neural processing of optic flow in the blowfly, 04/09/06, 19.30 - 20.00
  • Prof. Ueli Schibler, University of Geneva The daily rhythms of genes, cells, and organs, 05/09/06, 13.00 - 13.30
  • Prof. Ronald Davis, Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. André Fiala, Julius-Maximilians-University Würzburg Workshop 'Imaging active neurons', 05/09/06, 14.30 - 16.00
  • Dr. Roland Strauss, Theodor-Boveri-Institut fuer Biowissenschaften Workshop 'Hitchhikers guide to fly behavior', 05/09/06, 16.30 - 18.00
  • Prof. Nancy Bonini, University of Pennsylvania/HHMI Insights from Drosophila into human neuro-degenerative disease, 06/09/06, 9.00 - 10.00

Scientific committee

  • Dr. Richard Baines, University of Warwick
  • Prof. Patrick Callaerts, VIB Lab of Developmental Genetics
  • Dr. Lee Fradkin Leiden, University Medical Center
  • Dr. Angela Giangrande, CNRS, ILLKIRCH, C.U. Strasbourg
  • Dr. Ralph Greenspan, The Neurosciences Institute, San Diego
  • Prof. Bassem Hassan, VIB-K.U.Leuven, Group of Neurogenetics
  • Dr. Alicia Hidalgo, University of Birmingham
  • Dr. Jasprina Noordermeer, Leiden University Medical Center
  • Dr. Andreas Prokop, University of Manchester
  • Prof. Stefan Thor, Linkoping University


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