Our history

Our origins stretch back to the 60s, when informal pub meetings were formalised into what was first called the Brain Research Association. Our members, past and present, include world-leading scientists making major discoveries in neuroscience. 


  1. Our origins
  2. Past Trustees
  3. Prize winners
  4. Archive

Our origins

In the 1960s, a new type of interdisciplinary science gained an official name: neuroscience.

Neuroscience first saw the day of light under the name of the ‘Neurosciences Research Program’ or NRP. Founded in 1962, the NRP went on to become the American Society for Neuroscience.

In Britain, meanwhile, the first organisation that could lay claim to being dedicated to neuroscience was the predecessor of the British Neuroscience Association; the Brain Research Association (BRA) formally founded in London in 1968. The BRA shared the ethos of the American NRP, namely to promote multidisciplinarity and collaboration across the brain sciences.

Yet the BRA came from very humble beginnings.

It started as an eclectic group of like-minded scientists – not yet neuroscientists – who would gather at the Black Horse pub in Rathbone Place, London, to discuss topics that cut across different disciplines in brain science.  This “brain discussion group,” sometimes also called the London Neurobiology Discussion Group, was  initiated by four scientists: Steven Rose, John Lagnado, John Dobbing, and Robert Balázs. 

From the mid-1960s the BRA promoted neuroscience in the UK, organizing conferences and workshops, acting as a lobby group, promoting new courses, degrees, centres and chairs in the neurosciences and gradually engaging in the ethical and social implications emerging from this new field of research.  

The first BRA committee, elected in 1968 by postal vote, comprised eight members from different regions of the UK: John B. Cavanagh, Barry A. Cross, John Dobbing, Chris Evans, Edward George Gray, Pat Wall, Ian C. Whitefield, and Oliver L. Zangwill. Derek Richter and Donald MacKay, UK representatives on the Central Council of the International Brain Research Organization, should also be acknowledged for their role in formalising the BRA as the first national neuroscience association in the UK.

It wasn’t until 1996 that BRA became the British Neuroscience Association. The linguistic mutation from ‘brain’ to ‘neuroscience’ is an illuminating moment in the history of the BNA (and brain research more broadly) for it reflects the rise of neuroscience in both scientific and popular imaginations. 

(Above text based on article in the 2012 BNA Bulletin, The Legend of the Black Horse, by Joelle M. Abi-Rached, Anne Cooke and Steven Rose)

See further information about the early years of the BNA in the Archive, below.

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Past Trustees

BNA Officers and Trustees 2017 - present

Year President Secretary Treasurer Trustees
2017-2018 Stafford Lightman Emil Toescu currently vacant John Aggleton
Annette Dolphin
Alan Palmer
Manfred Berners
Kevin Cox

BNA Trustees 2014 - 2017

Year President Secretary Treasurer Non-Executive Directors
2016-2017 John Aggleton Emil Toescu Attila Sik Alan Palmer
Manfred Berners
Kevin Cox
2015-2016 John Aggleton Emil Toescu Attila Sik

Alan Palmer
Manfred Berners
Kevin Cox

2014-2015 Russell Foster Bruno Frenguelli Attila Sik

Alan Palmer
Manfred Berners
Kevin Cox


BNA Trustees 1968 - 2014

Year President (Chair 1968-1997) Secretary Treasurer
2013-2014 Russell Foster Bruno Frenguelli Duncan Banks
2012-2013 David Nutt Bruno Frenguelli Duncan Banks
2011-2012 David Nutt Bruno Frenguelli Duncan Banks
2010-2011 Trevor Robbins Bruno Frenguelli Duncan Banks
2009-2010 Trevor Robbins Colin Ingram Duncan Banks
2008-2009 Graham Collingridge Colin Ingram Stefan Przyborski
2007-2008 Graham Collingridge Colin Ingram Stefan Przyborski
2006-2007 Richard Frackowiak Debbie Dewar Stefan Przyborski
2005-2006 Richard Frackowiak Debbie Dewar Colin Ingram
2004-2005 Richard Frackowiak Debbie Dewar Colin Ingram
2003-2004 Nancy Rothwell Raj Kalaria Ian Varndell
2002-2003 Nancy Rothwell Raj Kalaria Ian Varndell
2001-2002 Nancy Rothwell Raj Kalaria Ian Varndell
2000-2001 Nancy Rothwell Raj Kalaria Ian Varndell
1999-2000 Colin Blakemore Paul Bolam Lindy Holden-Dye
1998-1999 Colin Blakemore Paul Bolam Lindy Holden-Dye
1997-1998 Colin Blakemore Paul Bolam Lindy Holden-Dye
1996-1997 Susan Iversen Paul Bolam Philip Bradley
1995-1996 Susan Iversen Mike Stewart Philip Bradley
1994-1995 Susan Iversen Mike Stewart Philip Bradley
1993-1994 Richard Morris Mike Stewart Philip Bradley
1992-1993 Richard Morris Mike Stewart Philip Bradley
1991-1992 Richard Morris Ian Kilpatrick Philip Bradley
1990-1991 Richard Morris Ian Kilpatrick John Garthwaite
1989-1990 John Kelly Peter Roberts John Garthwaite
1987-1989 John Kelly Peter Roberts Steve Logan
1986-1987 John Kelly Peter Roberts Ray Hill
1985-1986 John O’Keefe Vicky Sterling Ray Hill
1984-1985 John O’Keefe Vicky Sterling Ray Hill
1983-1984 John O’Keefe Vicky Sterling Ray Hill
1982-1983 Adam Sillito Vicky Sterling Ray Hill
1981-1982 Adam Sillito Vicky Sterling Paul Lewis
1979-1981 John Wolstencroft John O’Keefe Paul Lewis
1978-1979 John Wolstencroft John O’Keefe Sandra File
1977-1978 Geof Einon John O’Keefe Sandra File
1976-1977 Horace Barlow Geof Einon Sandra File
1974-1976 Horace Barlow Geof Einon John Wolstencroft
1973-1974 Pat Wall Chris Evans John Wolstencroft
1968-1973 Pat Wall Chris Evans John Dobbing

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Prize winners

BNA Awards for Advancing Neuroscience Prize Winners

Any member of the BNA can make a nomination for the BNA Annual Awards.  Nominations should be sent by email to office@bna.org.uk by 31st October each year.

Year Public Engagement of Neuroscience Outstanding Contribution to Neuroscience
2016 Dr Emma Robinson
University of Bristol. A full time neuroscientist who is also highly active in carrying out public engagement, and in facilitating other people to do so via the Bristol Neuroscience Festival. 
Professor David Ogden
Université Paris Descartes 
  Public Understanding of Neuroscience  

Professor Mark Lythgoe
University College London. TV and radio presenter, director of Cheltenham Science Festival.

Professor Angela Vincent
MBBS (Hon PhD Bergen) FRCPath FMedSci FRD, University of Oxford
2014 Science Media Centre
Fiona Fox, Chief Executive and Dr Edward Sykes, Senior Press Manager and Head of Mental Health & Neuroscience.
Professor Dame Kay Davies
CBE, DBE, F.MedSci., FRS. University of Oxford
2013 Dr Jane Haley
Edinburgh Neuroscience Coordinator
University of Edinburgh
Professor Uta Frith
Professor of Cognitive Development
UCL Institute of  Neuroscience
2012 Claudia Hammond
British author, occasional TV presenter, and frequent radio presenter with the BBC World Service and BBC Radio 4
Professor Steven Rose
Emeritus Professor of Biology, Open University. Emeritus Professor of Phsick, Gresham College London. Visiting Professor, University College London.
2011 Oliver Sacks MD FRCP
Neurologist and Author
Columbia University, New York
Sir Gabriel Horn FRS FRCP
Emeritus Professor of Zoology
University of Cambridge
2010 Ben Goldacre
Medical doctor, author and blogger
Not awarded
2009 Mary Baker MBE FRS Professor Geoffrey Burnstock FRS
2008 Sir Terry Pratchett FRS Professor Chris Frith FRS
2007 Lord (David) Sainsbury of Turville Professor John O'Keefe FRS
2006 Michael Robins Professor Horace Barlow FRS
2005 Dr Mark Matfield

Professor Richard Gregory FRS

2004 European DANA Alliance for the Brain (EDAB) Professor Geoffrey Raisman FRS
2003 Lord (Jack) Ashley of Stoke Dr Tim Bliss
2002 Marjorie Wallace (SANE) Professor Richard Morris FRS FRSE
2001 Lord (Brian) Rix of Hornsea (MENCAP) Professor Colin Blakemore FRS
2000 Andrew Blake Professor Patrick Wall FRS
First recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to British Neuroscience Award
1999 Julia Somerville
First recipient of the BNA Public Service Award
Not instituted


BNA Undergraduate and Postgraduate Prize Winners

Year Undergraduate Winner Postgraduate Winner
2016 Jointly awarded to:
Alina Gutoreva (University of Leeds)
Blair Wilson (University of Edinburgh)
Chen Song 
(University College London)
2015 Veselina Petrova
(University of Cambridge)
Kathryn Mills
(University College London)
2014 Lauren Byrne
(University of Edinburgh)
Linda Katona
(University of Oxford)
2013 Elina Jacobs
(University of Edinburgh)
Rumana Chowdhury
(University College London)
2012 Lewis Hou
(University of Edinburgh)
Dr Florence Rose Fricker
(King's College London)
2011 Kate Clark (University of Central Lancashire)
Special Commendation to Joseph Norris (King's College London)
Dr Christian Münch
(LMB, University of Cambridge)
2010 Owen Thomas (University of Birmingham)
Special Commendation to Sally Harris
(University of Bristol)

Dr Stephanie Burnett
(University College London)

2009 Not awarded Not awarded
2008 Phillip Goldrich
(University of Leeds)
Dr Lara Menzies
(University of Cambridge)
2007 Richard Hickman
(University of Birmingham)
Dr Rosamund Langston
(University of Edinburgh)
2006 Sophie Buglass
(University of Leeds)
Dr Karen Luyt
(University of Bristol)
2005 Jointly awarded to:
Luxmi Fatimathas (University College London) 
Matthew Martin (University of Bradford)
Dr Felipe Court
(University of Edinburgh)

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The origins of the BNA lie in the 1960s, when neursoscence first emerged as a disclipine in its own right. The exact nature and series of events that led to (what was then) to the Brain Research Association are a subject of some discussion, as becomes clear by reading the articles below.

5O years of neuroscience, by Steven Rose
The Lancet, Volume 385, Issue 9968, 14–20 February 2015, Pages 598–599
DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60224-0

From brain to neuro: the Brain Research Association and the making of British neuroscience 1965–1996, by JM Abi-Rached
J Hist Neurosci, 21 (2012), pp. 189–213
DOI: 10.1080/0964704X.2011.552413

Letter to the Editor and Authors' Response: Reaction to Abi-Rached JM (2012): From Brain to Neuro: The Brain Research Association and the Making of British Neuroscience, 1965–1996. Journal of the History of the Neurosciences 21:189–213) by Robert Balazs & Edward H. Reynolds 
J Hist Neurosci, 22 (2013), pp. 199-207
DOI: 10.1080/0964704X.2012.750700

Authors' Response: Of Founding Fathers and History by Joelle M. Abi-Rached & Steven P.R. Rose
J Hist Neurosci, 22 (2013), pp. 208-211
DOI: 10.1080/0964704X.2012.754270

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