Amsterdam Neuroscience Meeting 2019

by Raluca Blujdea

This October witnessed the annual Amsterdam Neuroscience meeting in the Johan Cruijff ArenA, where scientists of Amsterdam Neuroscience came together to share research, present posters and attend lectures about the biggest achievements of the year in our field. If you missed it by chance or choice, I will highlight the day’s events and why it is worth attending for the following years.

The meeting began with a series of research reports from four of the many departments that comprise the Amsterdam Neuroscience research institute. These presentations ranged from the role of confidence in psychiatric disorders, to rehabilitation in multiple sclerosis, and from genetic protection of centenarians, to dietary-influenced immunologically-induced cognitive loss.

Following this, there was a Pecha Kucha session, the poster market and lunch (provided by the organisers!). This is usually a great time to talk to poster-presenters. The posters are arranged according to the nine research programmes of Amsterdam Neuroscience, therefore you can narrow down your field of interest.

For future internship seekers: at this poster market you can ideally get informed by what techniques are being used in different laboratories, what sort of research they perform and, also very important, whether you like the person conducting the research by talking to them and asking them questions.

For everyone: This is an ideal way to begin networking and thinking of possible collaborations, regardless of whether you need an internship or not. 

The organisers also invite two guests outside of the Amsterdam Neuroscience research institute to be interviewed on stage. This year, one of them was a renowned professor at Harvard and MIT, Prof. Steven Hyman. He emphasised the need for both animal and cellular models in research, specifically in psychiatric disorders.

The second guest is usually a patient suffering from a neurological disorder who has agreed to share their health struggles with us. Personally, this is a very memorable part of the meeting as it highlights an often overlooked aspect of our research: the patient. This time around, it was the wonderful and very impressive Jetske van der Schaar interviewed by Prof. Philip Scheltens of the Alzheimercentrum.

Jetske van der Schaar with Dr. Scheltens of the Alzheimercentrum

Alzheimer Nederland has shared her story in a documentary and the fact that she has a PSEN1 mutation, meaning that she will develop Alzheimer’s at around 50 years of age. Her talk was extremely moving, specifically her struggles with being regarded as a patient when she has yet to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

A particularly interesting point was when a member of the audience proposed whether, if she had a mutation that did not present the same severity as the PSEN1, she would still like to know about it. Her response was: “I have been told that we shouldn’t want to know because we can’t do anything about it, but what if we can’t do anything about it because don’t want to know?”.

Her talk highlighted several problems we face in our research: our removal from the patients, our insufficiency to account for the patient’s needs, and our general oversight for what our research can provide. Jetske and Prof. Scheltens discussed these issues, what ethical implications they hold and overall how can we, as a “knowledge industry”, provide more patient-researcher contact.

All in all, the day consisted of a very informative round-up of the updates in our field and a lot of opportunities for networking. This was all held together by the comedic and interactive performance of the Scientific Director of Amsterdam Neuroscience, Prof. Arjen Brussaard.

The meeting ends with the famous Dutch concept of “borrel” with borrelhapjes (snacks like bitterballen and other deep-fried Dutch goodies) and drinks. This is another opportunity for discussing further with the attendees of the meeting.

MSc Neurosciences Class of 2020 attending Amsterdam Neuroscience Meeting

If you missed it, you can find more information on the website‘s annual report. Next year’s meeting will be in the beginning of October 2020 (keep an eye on the website).

If you would like to know more about the brilliant Jetske, and more on the documentary about Jetske’s life from the Alzheimercentrum, you can find it here. 

About the writer

Raluca is a second year VU Master of Neurosciences student who is particularly interested in neurological development & neurodegenerative disorders.