Understanding how the brain works – International Bernstein Conference in Berlin

Freiburg/ Berlin, September 17, 2018

Computers are indispensable for understanding processes in our brain, one of nature’s most complex systems. It is only with the help of computers that it becomes possible to understand the flood of electrical signals the brain constantly processes. Researchers use mathematical models and computer simulations to investigate and understand how the brain functions, as it is yet a mystery how the different parts of the brain work together.

The annual Bernstein Conference in Germany offers one of the most important opportunities for international scientific exchange in the field of computational neuroscience in Europe. Whether physics, biology, chemistry or computer sciences: This young research discipline benefits immensely from thinking and researching beyond disciplinary boundaries. Public discourse, which relates to neuroscience and questions on artificial intelligence or big data, is just as present as the investigation of basic principles which help us unravel the functionality of the brain.

To Prof. Dr. Susanne Schreiber, scientific organizer of the conference, the focus lies here: „We are neuroscientists who are trying to find out how the brain functions by means of mathematical methods.” She is pleased that so many renowned international researchers have accepted the invitation to Berlin.

For Prof. Dr. Andreas Herz, organizer of the conference, the unifying factor of computational neuroscience lies in „the common scientific language that allows interdisciplinary exchange across many disciplinary boundaries – from biophysics and the theory of dynamic systems to medicine and biotechnological application“.

One of the scientific highlights of this year’s Bernstein Conference is the presentation of the Valentino Braitenberg Award for Computational Neuroscience 2018 to Prof. Dr. Wulfram Gerstner (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) on September 26 at 3 pm. The prize, donated by the Autonomous Province of Bolzano-Alto Adige, is awarded every two years and honours outstanding researchers who have made a decisive contribution to the advancement of computational neuroscience. Wulfram Gerstner studies spiking neural networks (SNN), in which neurons communicate with each other by means of short pulses (action potentials or ’spikes‘), similar to real biological neural networks. Following the award ceremony, Gerstner will give a lecture on current results of his research.

Public Events

From September 25 to 28, the public interdisciplinary art project “ On Display – An Artistic View on Computational Neuroscience“ will be shown in the main building of Technische Universität Berlin. It features FOLDINGS the new piece by the Berlin artist Yutaka Makino, which invites visitors to challenge their own perception. The art project is a part of a „Science and Society Session“; it will temporarily distort visitors‘ familiar spatial perception so that behavioural routines and perceptual memory can be consciously (re)discovered.
The art project will be complemented by a public panel discussion on „Insights in Art and Science: Exploring the Boundaries“ on the evening of September 26. The artist and the scientific partner for the project will discuss their respective perspectives on the topic with two other renowned experts from both the arts and the sciences. The discussion language will be English.

The entire project is supported by the Schering Stiftung and the Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience. Participation in the Science and Society Session and the panel discussion is free of charge.

Important Events

For journalists
♣ Official Conference opening:
Wednesday, September 26, 2 pm,
main lecture hall H0104 of Technische Universität Berlin,
Straße des 17. Juni 135, 10623 Berlin

♣ Presentation of the Valentino Braitenberg Award to
Prof. Dr. Wulfram Gerstner (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) followed by a a lecture of the awardee
Wednesday, September 26, 3 pm,
main lecture hall H0104 of Technische Universität Berlin,
Straße des 17. Juni 135, 10623 Berlin

For journalists and the general public
♣ Science and Society Session presenting FOLDINGS, the latest piece by Yutaka Makino as part of the interdisciplinary art project „On Display – An Artistic View on Computational Neuroscience“
– ground floor of the main building of Technische Universität Berlin, Straße des 17. Juni 135, 10623 Berlin
– opening hours of the exhibition:
Tuesday, Sept 25, 3-6 pm
Wednesday, Sept 26, 11 am – 7 pm
Thursday, Sept 27, 11 am – 7 pm
Friday, Sept 28, 11 am – 4 pm
– supported by the Schering Stiftung together with the Bernstein Network

♣ Panel discussion on „Insights in Art and Science: Exploring the Boundaries“
– Wednesday, September 26, 8 pm
room 3005 of Technische Universität Berlin,
Straße des
17. Juni 135, 10623 Berlin, Germany
– Discussion language is English

Press Pass

Journalists are very welcome to attend the Bernstein Conference free of charge. Please register at the central information desk. Identification with your press ID is required.

The Bernstein Conference

The Bernstein Conference is the annual conference of the Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience. It has become the largest annual conference in this field in Europe attracting experts from all over the world. In the three years to come, the Bernstein Conference will take place in Berlin.

Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience

The Bernstein Network is a research network in the field of computational neuroscience; this field brings together experimental approaches in neurobiology with theoretical models and computer simulations. The network started in 2004 with a funding initiative of the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) to develop and interconnect regional research structures in computational neuroscience throughout Germany and to promote the transfer of theoretical insight into clinical and technical applications. In this context, computational neuroscience joins experimental approaches in neurobiology with theoretical models and computer simulations.
The network is named after the German physiologist and biophysicist Julius Bernstein (1839-1917). After more than 10 years of funding by the Federal Ministry, the Bernstein Network consists of more than 200 research groups. Since 2016, the continuity of the network is sustained by the non-profit association Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience.

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