The British Neuroscience Association is holding its international Festival of Neuroscience at the ICC in Birmingham from 10th-13th April. The programme includes 6 plenary speakers, 750 posters, and over 40 symposia, workshops and special events.

In its honour, we have made several of our recent neuroscience theme issues free to access until the end of April. So, if you have any spare time to catch up on some reading, click on the cover image below to access the issue’s table of contents.

We are also attending the Festival ourselves, so if you are there too, make some time for the exhibition hall, where you can ask our representative about any of the theme issues below, or our journals in general. We also have a prize draw give-away (neuroscience themed) for signing up to our TOC alerts…  

Staying still

It is natural to assume that the job of the motor system is to produce movement. But in fact most of the time the body is not moving at all, but keeping still. We are so used to this that we take it for granted, but one only has to look at a squirrel in the garden, or observe human eye movements, to be aware of the continual alternation between rapid movement and periods of “freezing”, a pattern that is a universal feature throughout the animal kingdom. Keeping still is a challenging problem for the motor system, and certainly not just a matter of muscular inhibition.

This theme issue focuses on stopping and keeping still, from behavioural, neurophysiological and comparative perspectives. This approach is likely to stimulate research into the fundamental brain mechanisms controlling movement, especially in the basal ganglia, a large area of the brain that is currently little-understood. It also promises clinical benefits in terms of improved differential diagnosis in many neural disorders, more precise monitoring of disease progression, and evaluation of the success of therapeutic procedures.


Are you afraid of the dark?

Nocturnal and deep-sea animals do not live in an impoverished visual world, but many experience the world more or less as day-timers and shallow sea swimmers, being able to distinguish colour, negotiate obstacles during locomotion and navigate using learned visual landmarks. But how? To see well at such low light levels is far from trivial – the lack of light means that visual signals generated in the light-sensitive photoreceptors of the retina can easily be drowned in neural noise.

The collection of papers in this theme issue reveals how visual performance in dim light is possible, and in particular which optical and neural strategies have evolved to permit reliable vision in dim light. These papers explore several perspectives, from ecology, evolution and quantitative visual behaviour to cellular electrophysiology, mathematical modelling and molecular biology.


Being BOLD

Cognitive neuroscientists depend on the use of non-invasive blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study brain function in humans. BOLD signals largely reflect changes in blood flow so correctly understanding the mechanisms that link brain function to blood flow is, therefore, critical when interpreting BOLD.

This theme issue brings together scientists who use BOLD as a tool and scientists who study the mechanisms that underlie BOLD signals to show how the findings from cellular neuroscience can help to advance our understanding of this relationship in different brain regions, conditions or diseases, and to discuss the implementation of advanced technologies and the development of new analysis methods in cognitive neuroscience that have enhanced what we can learn from BOLD about brain function. Learn more about BOLD in this Q&A with the authors.


Sensing our physiology

Interoception is the sense of the physiology condition of the body. It ensures the continuous control of biological functions; a process called homeostasis, which is vital for physical health and survival. Importantly though, interoception also profoundly influences cognition, emotion, behaviour and mental health, and is key to a comprehensive understanding of psychological and neurological disorders.

This theme issue brings together leaders in this field who provide up-to-date scientific insights into how information about the internal body is represented in the brain and integrated with thoughts, feelings and behaviour. These advances draw together anatomical and physiological knowledge, new theoretical models and experimental findings from brain imaging.

For more issues in this field take a look at our Neuroscience and Cognition subject collections page, and for a full list of titles please browse our archive.


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