Brainstem SIG

Welcome to the website of the Brainstem Special Interest Group!

BSSIG logoThe Brainstem Special Interest Group [BSS] has developed from the former Brainstem Society [BSS]. The Brainstem Society was founded in the 1990’s by a group of clinicians and researchers devoted to the brainstem. The Brainstem Society has organized several International Meetings every three to four years, which resulted in several publications.

The Brainstem SIG [BSS] is devoted to the brainstem and all its aspects, from anatomy to neurophysiology, from form to function, from health to disease. The brainstem is a small but most important center in the brain. It serves as a central relay station between spinal cord, cerebellum and cerebrum and is intricately involved in functions ranging from motor control, sensorimotor integration and regulation of autonomic functions to consciousness and attention. Brainstem anatomy and physiology of brainstem functions are complex, and pathophysiological mechanisms are often difficult to understand.

Like the BRAINSTEM SOCIETY in the past, which has been a multidisciplinary organization, also the BRAINSTEM SIG will be a multidisciplinary organization: it is not necessary to be affiliated to any National Society of Clinical Neurophysiology or any other organization to be or become a member of the Brainstem SIG.

With the Brainstem SIG, we want to provide a platform for exchanging ideas evolving around the brainstem, and for promoting further knowledge about its physiology and pathophysiology. The Brainstem SIG is open to everybody, clinicians, researchers, technicians, etc. There is no membership fee, and no formal membership is necessary, although people being interested are encouraged to send an email to the Secretary in order to be entered in the mailing list.

Current activities

We are in the process of transforming the BRAINSTEM SOCIETY into a BRAINSTEM SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology. Our new name “Brainstem SIG” allows us to continue using our former abbreviation “BSS” in our logo. The past Scientific Board of the Brainstem Society will continue to serve as an interim executive and scientific board of the new Brainstem SIG until a formal General Assembly can be arranged at the next international meeting, the International Congress of Clinical Neurophysiology 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland. The board will take actions necessary to formally establish the new Brainstem SIG under the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology.

In January 2019, there was a congress in Zurich, entitled “Brainstorm on Brainstem,” which was organized by Oliver Bozinov, a neurosurgeon from Zurich, who is particularly interested in the brainstem. Three members of the BSS, Edgar Garcia-Rill, Viviana Versace, and Markus Kofler participated and presented various lectures and/or posters. It turned out to be a very interesting meeting, and the BSS members were most warm-heartedly welcomed. Oliver plans to organize a follow-up meeting, perhaps in one or two years, where the Brainstem SIG could participate again.

In June 2019, the European Congress of Clinical Neurophysiology took place in Warsaw, Poland. Satu Jääskeläinen organized a symposium on behalf of the BSS, entitled “State of the art in intraoperative monitoring of the brainstem.” It featured Gemma Pérez-Fajardo (Córdoba, Spain), Pepijn van den Munckhof (Amsterdam, Netherlands), and Vedran Deletis (Zagreb, Croatia), who presented a very interesting session. Satu suggested to ask Ulf Ziemann about the possibility to publish a “topical mini-issue” in Clinical Neurophysiology based on these three lectures.

With reference to BSS publications, we are proud to announce that a review paper on the pedunculopontine nucleus has been published: Garcia-Rill et al., Focus on the pedunculopontine nucleus. Consensus review from the May, 2018, Brainstem Society meeting in Washington, DC. Clinical Neurophysiology 2019; 130: 925–940. It is based on lectures held at the BSS symposium at the International Congress of Clinical Neurophysiology (ICCN) 2018 in Washington. A number of other papers from the same meeting have been published as review articles in a Topical Issue in the Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology (Volume 36, Issue 6, p 395-459) (may require subscription).

The next planned BSS activity will be the forthcoming ICCN in Geneva, Switzlerland, in November 2022. The BSS has already submitted a proposal for a symposium, mainly dealing with blink reflex modulation. The presentations may be good for a half-day symposium, or perhaps a bit more, but if we could provide some more topics, we might even ask for a longer time slot. We are still early, but the congress organization is already underway. If you have topics to suggest, including names of speakers, please forward them to Markus Kofler and/or Satu Jääskeläinen. We will take care to forward them to the ICCN organization committee.

Between now and the ICCN 2022, additional BSS activities should take place, however. One promising possibility would be to attempt some collaboration with the International Society of Intraoperative Neurophysiology (ISIN). The idea would be, that intraoperative monitoring/mapping techniques might help identifying mechanisms and pathways of brainstem circuits “directly on and/or within the nervous system,” which are inaccessible in the “intact” human being. Possible interactions could be to collaborate in common projects, but also to attend or even to organize selected sessions in one another’s meetings. Markus Kofler will be in contact with Vedran Deletis. Any suggestions in this regard would be welcome!

Contact Information, Application for Membership

Markus Kofler, MD, Department of Neurology, Hochzirl Hospital, A-6170 Zirl, Austria

Telephone: +43.5238.501.44100 | Fax: +43.5238.501.45056 | Email:

Brainstem SIG Officers

Working Group Leaders

Satu Jääskeläinen, MD, PhD

Professor of Clinical Neurophysiology
Turku University Hospital
Turku, Finland

Markus Kofler, MD

Professor of Neurology
Hochzirl Hospital
Zirl, Austria

Scientific Board Members

Mark Hallett

Mark Hallett

Scientific Board Member

Bethesda, Maryland, USA

Josep Valls-Solé

Josep Valls-Solé

Scientific Board Member

Barcelona, Spain

Lo J. Bour

Lo J. Bour

Scientific Board Member

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Jens Ellrich

Jens Ellrich

Scientific Board Member

Erlangen, Germany

Brainstem SIG History

The BrainStem Society was founded by Bram Ongerboer de Visser, Giorgio Cruccu, and Josep Valls-Solé in the late 1990s. It was a club of scientists interested in unraveling some of the unsolved mysteries of brainstem function. Since then seven international meetings have been organized: 1998 in Barcelona, Spain; 2001 in Amsterdam, Netherlands; 2004 in Rome, Italy; 2007 in Mainz, Germany; 2010 in London, United Kingdom; 2014 in Berlin, Germany; and 2018 in Washington, DC, USA. The main focus of the BrainStem Society was always neurophysiology, but at the same time the club was open to related specialties.

Past Brainstem Society Congress Meetings

5th Brainstem Society Congress. London, United Kingdom 2010
6th Brainstem Society Congress. Berlin, Germany 2014
7th Brainstem Society Congress. Washington, DC, USA 2018