History of the Conference

   The ICHBB history

The International Conference on Hormones, Brain and Behavior originates in my failure to find in Europe a conference that would adequately cover my field of research, Behavioral Endocrinology. I had attended in the seventies and early eighties a series of conferences focusing on Endocrinology (mainly the meeting of the European Society of Comparative Endocrinology) or on Animal Behavior (the Ethology conference and the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Animal Behavior) but these conferences usually included only a very small number of talks on the effects of hormones on behavior. Interestingly, this was particularly the case for animal behavior meetings that were at the time strongly influenced by the emerging sociobiology and behavioral ecology and therefore devoted almost no interest to the study of the causation of behavior.

At the beginning of 1982, I was contacted by Raymond Gilles, Professor of Animal Physiology at the University of Liege, who had already organized a number of meetings on comparative aspects of animal physiology that had crystallized in the foundation of the European Society for Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry (ESCPB). He had planed to organize for ESCPB in collaboration with other scientists a series of symposia during the following summer but his colleagues were not really moving on and he feared that no meeting would be ready to take place that year. He thus offered me to help organize a meeting on the topics close and dear to my heart.

Having no experience in the organization of scientific conferences, I sent a letter of invitation to approximately 40 well-established specialists in the analysis of the endocrine control of behavior hoping that at least a few of them would answer positively and form a first nucleus for a conference program. To my great surprise, almost all of them answered positively and I had to juggle to fit all these talks within the three days of conference that had been planed originally. The conference was organized in September 1982 at the Zentrum für Interdisciplinäre Forschung (ZIF) a new conference facility created at the University of Bielefeld, Germany with the help of Ekki and Ragna Pröve who served as extremely efficient local organizers. This conference was attended by approximately 150 scientists from a variety of countries mostly in Europe and in North America and was a great success. Its proceedings were published by Springer (Balthazart et al., 1983) and this book was quite broadly distributed, being at the time one of the first published collection of reviews in behavioral endocrinology.

This initial success was a great incentive to continue on the same trajectory and two similar conferences therefore followed that were organized in Liège, Belgium in 1984 as part of the First International Congress of Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry and in Liège again in 1989 with proceedings being published respectively by Springer Verlag (Gilles and Balthazart, 1985) and Karger (Balthazart, 1990).

Two more conferences in this series were organized in Tours, France in 1993 with the late Jean Pierre Signoret and Claude Fabre Nys serving as local organizers and then in Torino, Italy in 1996 with Gian Carlo Panzica as a host. The proceedings of these two meetings were published as special issues of Psychoneuroendocrinology (Signoret et al., 1994) and of Brain Research Bulletin (Panzica and Balthazart, 1997) respectively.

By that time, a Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology (SBN) had emerged (in 1997) in the USA from the previous Conference on Reproductive behavior (colloquially known as “the Sex Conference”), a loosely organized meeting that had been organized annually since 1969 (Dewsbury, 2003). SBN had a clear international dimension. It was therefore decided that the next ICHBB would be organized as a joint meeting with the annual SBN conference. This would also be the last ICHBB that would become later fully incorporated into SBN activities and SBN would, in the future, run its annual meeting every four years outside the United Sated. The 6th ICHBB-SBN meeting was held in Madrid in 2000 (Antonio Guillamon, Luis-Miguel Garcia Segura and Santiago Segovia as local organizers) and assembled a larger number of scientists than ever. Its proceedings were published in Hormones and Behavior (McCarthy et al., 2001), the official journal of the SBN, another sure sign of the future merge of the meeting with SBN activities. I though this was the end of the story, but I was in for some surprise!

Gian Carlo Panzica while organizing the 5th ICHBB in Torino in 1996 was “infected by a nasty virus“ compulsively pushing people into conference organization. He consequently decided to create, in collaboration with Roberto Melcangi (University of Milan) a cycle of conferences using essentially the same format as ICHBB that would be covering the specific field of steroid action in the nervous system. This meeting has now taken place on 7 occasions (2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013) and the next meeting is planned for 2015.

The 5th conference on steroid action in the nervous system that took place in February 2009 was associated with a symposium entitled 7th ICHBB! This one day meeting was organized in part for the 60th birthday of the two compulsive conference organizers concerned by this short history (JB and GCP) but also more seriously to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of the seminal paper of Phoenix and collaborators (Phoenix et al., 1959) universally recognized as the founding paper for the research field analyzing the endocrine controls of sexual differentiation of brain and behavior.

This 8th edition of ICHBB organized in Liège will meet on the occasion of the official retirement of Jacques Balthazart from all his official duties at the University of Liège. Talks will be presented during three days by a group of stellar scientists who will without a doubt provide exciting summaries of recent developments in the field of behavioral neuroendocrinology. This meeting will hopefully be scientifically and socially as rewarding as previous editions.


Balthazart, J. (Ed.), 1990. “Hormones, Brain and Behavior in Vertebrates, Vol 1 and 2”, Karger A.G., Basel.

Balthazart, J., Pröve, E. and Gilles, R. (Eds.), 1983. “Hormones and Behaviour in Higher Vertebrates”, Springer Verlag, Berlin.

Dewsbury, D. A., 2003. The Conference on Reproductive Behavior: A history. Hormones and Behavior, 43, 465-473.

Gilles, R. and Balthazart, J. (Eds.), 1985. “Neurobiology, Current Comparative Approaches”, Springer Verlag, Berlin.

McCarthy, M.M., Guillamon, A., Garcia-Segura, L.-M. and Segovia, S. (Guest Eds.), 2001. Hormones and Behavior, 40/2, pp. 85-366.

Panzica, G.C. and Balthazart, J. (Guest Eds.), 1997. Brain Research Bulletin, Vol. 44/4, pp. 319-557.

Phoenix, C. H., Goy, R. W., Gerall, A. A. and Young, W. C., 1959. Organizational action of prenatally administered testosterone propionate on the tissues mediating behavior in the female guinea pig. Endocrinology. 65, 369-382.

Signoret, J.-P., Fabre-Nys, C. and Balthazart, J. (Guest Eds.), 1994. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 19 (5-7), pp. 403-721.



© Jacques Balthazart 2019