BNA Festive Symposium 2020

BNA Event - 14th Dec 2020

"The seven ages of (hu)man" - Exploring the neuroscience of ageing throughout the lifespan. 14th December, online.

The 2020 Festive symposium will mark the launch of The BNA’s annual theme for 2021: The neuroscience of ageing.

Taking inspiration from Shakespeare’s famous passage from, “All the world’s a stage”*, the programme will feature talks across all stages of the lifespan. 

In addition to the seven described by Shakespeare, from 'the infant' to 'the last scene of all', we will add an eighth: that of foetal brain development. Moreover we will look at wider life experiences than those typically associated with men! - Talks will cover changes to the maternal brain, neurodevelopmental disorders, the adolescent brain, and super-agers too. 

BNA Festive symposia 

The BNA Festive Symposium is one of the most popular events in the neuroscience calendar, with a reputation for lively and inclusive programmes which attract people interested in neuroscience across all stages of their career.

Previous years' events have sold out weeks in advance and have been covered by BBC Radio Four's 'All in the Mind, as will the the case for this year's event too.

This year’s symposium will be the first time it will be held online.  To maintain the sense of occasion, excitement and interaction, the talks will be delivered live, to maximise engagement of all attendees.  We have also made the shorts and the day shorter, to allow for those who are multi-tasking and home-working. 

The BNA Festive Symposium will feature the presentation of the following BNA Awards for 2020.

  • Undergraduate prize 
  • Postgraduate prize 
  • Outstanding contribution to neuroscience 
  • Public engagement of neuroscience 


We are excited to have such a wonderful group of speakers and talks lined up to discuss the neurosicence of ageing through the lifespan.

The day will start at 10:00 GMT and is due to finish by 15:30 GMT. You are all welcome to join us for an informal Gathertown conversation afterwards, the joining instructions for which will be shared on the day.


Session chair: Annette Dolphin, BNA President

  • 10:10 - Magdalena Götz - Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany
    Age zero! - Converting glia into neurons - from mechanisms to neuronal replacement in vivo
  • 10:30 - Vicky Southgate - University of Copenhagen, Denmark
    First age - The ultra-social baby


  • 11:05 - Announcement and award of the BNA 2020 student prizes

Session chair: Rik Henson, BNA President-Elect

  • 11:15 - Sue Fletcher-Watson - University of Edinburgh, UK
    Second age - Neurodiversity and the pupil “creeping... unwillingly to school”?
  • 11:35 - Sarah-Jayne Blakemore - Cambridge University, UK
    Third age - The secret life of the teenage brain


  • 12:10 - Silvana Valtcheva - New York University, US
    Fourth age - Neural circuits for maternal sensitivity to infant vocalizations

12:30-13:30 - HOUR LUNCH BREAK

Session chair: Anne Cooke, BNA CE

  • 13:30 - Announcement and award of the BNA 2020 prizes for 'Outstanding Contribution to Neuroscience' and 'Public Engagement of Neuroscience'
  • 13:40 - Rik Henson - Cambridge University, UK
    Fifth age - Mid-life activities are important for late-life cognition
  • 14:00 - Simon Lovestone - Janssen, UK 
    Sixth age - Shakespeare’s sixth age heading towards an upgrade; progress in Alzheimer’s research


Session chair: Rik Henson, BNA President-Elect

  • 14:35 -Ian Deary - University of Edinburgh, UK (co-author of talk, Janie Corley)
    Seventh age - 99 not out: 'sans' and 'avec' in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921 
  • 14:55 - Panel discussion with speakers and special guest Brenda Walker, BNA Associate member 
    Chaired by John O'Brien, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry and NIHR National Specialty Lead for Dementia
  • Announcement of fancy dress competition prize winners!

At the end of the formal programme you are welcome to stay for Informal discussion and sharing of costumes on Gathertown (joining details will be shared on the day). 

Top *

*The Seven Ages of Man (”All the world’s a stage”) by William Shakespeare 


All the world’s a stage, 
And all the men and women merely players; 
They have their exits and their entrances, 
And one man in his time plays many parts, 
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant, 
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms; 
And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel 
And shining morning face, creeping like snail 
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, 
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad 
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier, 
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard, 
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel, 
Seeking the bubble reputation 
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice, 
In fair round belly with good capon lined, 
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, 
Full of wise saws and modern instances; 
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts 
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon, 
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side; 
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide 
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice, 
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes 
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, 
That ends this strange eventful history, 
Is second childishness and mere oblivion, 
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. 

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