Operating an iPod touch isn't brain surgery, but about 3,500 neurologists headed to a meeting next spring are going to have to figure out how to use the smart little devices.

Instead of a 165-page program book waiting for them at the registration desk in Philadelphia, attendees will be given an iPod touch (for keeps). The portable media player, personal digital assistant, and Wi-Fi mobile platform from Apple will be integrated with every aspect of the meeting, from scientific education to social events, plenary lectures, seminars, exhibitors, and maps to help navigate the conference. Attendees will even be able to use it to communicate with each other.

In addition to reducing paper waste, the organizer, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, expects to extend the reach of the meeting with podcasts in the months leading up to the May 2010 event. In addition, many of the seminars and the keynote lecture by Newt Gingrich will be downloadable post-meeting. AANS plans to open an Apple iTunes store to disseminate the podcasts. However, as communications director Betsy van Die points out, some sessions will remain exclusive to the meeting. “We're not going to give it all away,” she says.

“It's far more expensive” than offering the printed materials, says van Die, but there's “a lot of enthusiasm from potential sponsors.” AANS is in the proposal stage with vendors who can create its mobile application.