In 2012 The Anatomical Society celebrated its 125th anniversary by organising a joint international meeting and symposia with our colleagues from the Sociedad Anatómica Española, at the Royal College of Surgeons at Edinburgh, 10-12th July 2012. The major scientific theme of the meeting was Motor Neurones and Diseases of Motor Neurones. The meeting attracted over 165 delegates from around the World and almost 100 abstracts were submitted.

The symposium joint organisers, Dr Simon Parson and Professor Tom Gillingwater (both of Edinburgh University’s Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research) set out to organise a meeting that brought together basic and applied scientists and clinicians working in the field of motor neurones and the diseases which target them. The opening plenary lecture by Pico Caroni (Basel, Switzerland) filled the auditorium in the King Khalid building and riveted the audience with a wide-ranging discourse on his seminal work on the SOD1 ALS model mouse.

Gareth Miles from St Andrews University followed, informing us about inhibitory circuitry in spinal cord motor pathways, while Maria Lanuza (Reus, Spain) brought a different player to the party, discussing the role of protein kinases at the neuromuscular junction. After lunch, we were very fortunate to have managed to fly in Harvard Professor of Neuroscience, Jeff Lichtman, to bring us up to date about his hugely ambitious project to map the ‘connectome’ of the brain. This tour-de-force visually stunning presentation left many old hands amazed, especially as it seems he is really going to be able to map every synapse in the brain, possibly within a year! Lucia Tabares (Seville, Spain) followed this with some beautifully detailed work on the organisation of presynaptic proteins at the neuromuscular junction to round off day one in style.

Michael Sendtner (Wurzburg, Germany) opened day two with a talk which brought together his thoughts on both Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Spinal Muscular Atrophy, in terms of the involvement of axonal growth and plasticity. Angela Vincent (Oxford) and Hugh Willison (Glasgow) educated us all in the importance of antibody mediated and inflammatory interactions at the neuromuscular junction, followed by a thought provoking dissection of what we really know about ALS, from Kevin Talbot (Oxford). The final talk was by Chris Lorson (Missouri, USA), which nicely brought us back to the development of therapeutic tools to treat Spinal Muscular Atrophy and also his pioneering work developing a large animal model of the disease.

The meeting was very friendly and provided ample opportunities to discuss the content of the talks and many posters. It was rounded off by a gala dinner and ceilidh dancing at the Hub on the Royal Mile and delegates went away happy that they had heard some excellent research talks from leaders in the field. A special symposium issue of the Journal of Anatomy will be produced for publication in 2013 containing articles from the invited speakers mentioned in this review.