ECNP: The most promising data from research across disorders of the brain

September 04, 2011

On 3-7 September 2011, leading experts and up to 7,000 participants will meet in Paris, France, to present, discuss and evaluate the latest achievements and future perspectives in the field of neuropsychopharmacology, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, drugs and addiction, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer´s disease, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and paraphilia, as well as basic neuroscience and psychopharmacology. Great emphasis will be put on clear take-home messages that can easily be translated into clinical practice by medical professionals.

The scientific programme includes more than 35 sessions to be presented by more than 150 speakers from 19 countries.

Highlights include:

  • The release of The size and burden of mental disorders in Europe, a major epidemiological study of the prevalence, disability burden, and treatment of mental and neurological disorders in Europe.

  • Press conferences on "The emotional brain in youth: how to diagnose and treat mood disorders in children and adolescents" and "ECNP: challenges for the future of neuroscience research, drug development and treatment of mental disorders in Europe".

  • Cutting-edge symposia on:


      - Translational research in Alzheimer´s disease
      - Depression and anxiety in Parkinson´s disease
      - Early intervention in schizophrenia
      - Psychosis Risk Syndrome (PRS)
      - Sex and gender differences in psychiatric disorders
      - Oxidative and nitrosative stress in major depression: new pathways and novel drug targets
      - Cognitive and neuropsychiatric disturbances in multiple sclerosis



  • Educational update sessions dealing with the pharmacogenomics of psychotropic drugs, cognitive impairment in psychiatric disorders, and the importance of neuroimaging in today's psychiatry.

  • Three poster sessions with more than 700 poster presentations, offering an exciting insight into the research activities of scientists from all over the world.

    Invitation: meet the scientists!

    The three press conferences scheduled at the 24th ECNP Congress, two will be on 4 September and one on 5 September 2011.

    In the course of the press conferences, leading experts will explain the key importance of neuropsychopharmacological research for better therapeutic and preventive management of psychiatric diseases.

    Each of these experts will be available for questions by journalists. Please refer to the detailed schedule of press conferences in the enclosed press information and procedures.

    What is neuropsychopharmacology?

    Neuropsychopharmacology is the field where advances in basic neuroscience connect with clinical outputs and are made into novel workable treatments.

    Neuropsychopharmacology developed out of previously isolated scientific fields investigating brain function and dysfunction, as well as pharmacological approaches to the study of the neurobiological mechanisms of brain disorders in the most rational and empirical manner.

    Today neuropsychopharmacology comprises a broad range of research arising from molecular biology, psychology, genetics, brain imaging, neuroimmunology, neurochemistry, psychopharmacology, in particular pharmacodynamics (drug action), as well as the clinical disciplines of psychiatry, neurology and psychology.

    Since different scientific communities have so much gain from sharing research findings and ideas, neuropsychopharmacology has proven to be an innovative platform for cross-disciplinary research, helping to bring scientific disciplines more closely in touch with each other for the benefit of researchers, clinicians and patients.

    Neuropsychopharmacology: an outstanding European success story

    Europe, with its long tradition in neuroscience, has contributed fundamentally to major developments in psychopharmacological treatment and the introduction of modern medications for patients with brain disorders.

    Over the past decades, our understanding of the human brain has deepened in an unprecedented way, and real strides are being made every year in the understanding of brain structure, brain function, and the neurobiological basis for thought, emotion and behaviour.

    The success story of neuropsychopharmacology is associated with major developments in the science of the brain, namely advances in brain imaging and molecular genetics. Through modern and extremely sensitive imaging techniques, brain function underlying normal and pathological conditions can be monitored and measured, allowing the elucidation of underlying biological mechanisms that contribute to perception, mood, behaviour, and different states of mind.

    Further research has demonstrated that vulnerability to complex mental disorders has a profound genetic component, and genetic manipulation in animal studies has revealed fundamental mechanisms involved in mental illness. This vulnerability is mostly due to the joint effects of many genes acting together with non-genetic factors. The prospect of acquiring molecular knowledge concerning disease vulnerability genes holds great hope for the engineering of new therapies.

    The emerging challenge in neuroscience is translational medicine, the ´bench-to-bedside´ enterprise of harnessing advances in basic science research into new approaches for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, which aims to identify areas in the central nervous system (CNS) that correlate to psychopathology, indicating new targets for drug development.

    Biotechnological insights translated into practice and the introduction of new drugs are the starting point for the wider goals of translational research, ensuring that novel treatments and research knowledge actually reach the patients or populations for whom they are intended, and that they are implemented correctly.

    Major achievements in neuroscience in neuroscience

  • Seventeen Nobel prizes: Camillo Golgi, Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1906); Charles Scott Sherrington, Edgar Douglas Adrian (1932); Henry Hallett Dale, Otto Loewi (1936); Walter Rudolf Hess, António Caetano Egas Moniz (1949); Alan Lloyd Hodgkin, Andrew Fielding Huxley (1963); Ulf von Euler, Bernard Katz (1970); Torsten N. Wiesel (1981); Rita Levi-Montalcini (1986); Erwin Neher, Bert Sakmann (1991); Arvid Carlsson (2000)
  • The first antidepressant (imipramine), anxiolytic (diazepam) and antipsychotic (chlorpromazine), as well as most of the later refinements such as the SSRIs.
  • The first proof that a neurotransmitter was responsible for a brain disease (dopamine in Parkinson's disease), leading to the first pathology-targeted treatment (L-DOPA).
  • Groundbreaking discoveries in nerve transmission, leading to pioneering inventions in brainimaging such as MRI and PET.
  • A history of breakthrough innovations in the chemistry and pharmacology of brain science.

    Neuropsychopharmacology: what's at stake

    Mental disorders as well as neurologic and other CNS disorders are "disorders of the brain" and are considered to be Europe's foremost health care challenge of the 21st century. As the burden of brain disorders increases, particularly due to increased life expectancy, the importance of neuroscience is continuously growing. To confront the individual, social, and economic burden posed by brain disorders in Europe, supporting and bridging basic and clinical research in neuroscience is essential.

    In any given year, by a conservative estimate of 2005, almost 80 million Europeans (27% of the EU population) are affected by mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, somatoform and addictive disorders alone and many more if the full spectrum of disorders of the brain are considered (Wittchen & Jacobi, 2005). In the Western world, more people are being admitted to hospital because of brain disorders than for diseases in any other organ (Olesen et al., 1998).

    Diseases of the brain and central nervous system together constitute 35% of Europe's total disease burden. Throughout Europe, 23% of the years of healthy life are lost due to brain diseases and 50% of the years of life lived with disability (YLD) - at a total cost to the region of €386 billion per annum (Olesen & Leonardi, 2003).

    The overall burden of mental disorders is mainly due to high prevalence, early onset, and high levels of associated disability, whereas treatment costs remain small relative to those documented for other common disorders like diabetes and heart disease. In schizophrenia, for example, which has immense treatment needs and the highest cost per case after dementia, medication costs are surprisingly only 5% of the total (Ragan, 2010). Depression, now the most expensive of all brain diseases due to its high prevalence, cost the EU €118 billion in 2004 (Sobocky et al., 2006).

    Sooner than expected, depression has become Europe´s most debilitating disease: in the mid-1990s, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicted that it would be by 2020, rank second after ischaemic heart disease among the leading causes of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). Today - as will be released during the ECNP Congress - depression has already overtaken heart disease in the European Union, and in the past decade accounted for 9.2% of DALYs in the region (Spinney, 2009; Wittchen, Jacobi et al., 2011).

    Furthermore, a considerable increase in the number of children and adolescents evaluated, diagnosed and treated for psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Syndrome (ADHD), and conduct disorders has been noted in the past decades. The absence of suitable authorised medicinal products to treat conditions in children and adolescents with mental disorders has caused major concern in the scientific community, and has stimulated both clinical and research interest in brain dysfunction in youth.

    Knowing how the brain works is regarded as the key to understanding mental health and mental illness.

    Fighting for the future

    The current level of Europe's biomedical research spending (1.8% of the gross domestic product) is low compared to the USA (2.7%) and Japan (3.4%). What is more, the disengagement, in the course of last year, of many major drug companies from basic research into psychiatric disorders has raised grave concern by researchers, clinicians and the press across the region, limiting the hope of future innovations to improve the currently deficient treatment situation for mental disorders.

    The current closure of some major neuroscience research units in Europe jeopardises the translation of new insights into innovative and improved medicines and will have serious implications for both Europe's research infrastructure and public health, since the discovery of and access to newer and better medicines will be limited and may even recede in the future.

    In addition, the identification and development of new treatments for brain disorders are particularly demanding as compared with other diseases. Further challenges in the development and implementation of novel therapies are posed by extremely ambitious criteria for proof of clinical efficacy and safety, difficulties in obtaining satisfactory reimbursements, and the encouragement of generics by some countries, which needs to be addressed to keep drug innovation for brain disorders tenable.

    An enhancement of research infrastructure as well as new strategies and long-term scientific investments are needed to respond to Europe´s mental health challenges, requiring a new, dynamic interchange between academia, clinical practitioners, industry and the regulatory agencies.
    -end-
    European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP)

    ECNP is uniquely placed to meet the crucial need for providing a pan-European platform for brain science, which facilitates and stimulates exchange across Europe´s research community, as well as encouraging common standards of clinical and scientific practice.

    The European College of Neuropsychopharmacology is an independent, self-funded scientific association dedicated to supporting the field of neuropsychopharmacology in Europe.

    Established in 1987 to promote high-quality experimental and clinical research in neuropsychopharmacology, ECNP has become one of Europe's pre-eminent interdisciplinary platforms for the exchange and dissemination of scientific research on the brain and disorders of the brain. ECNP is strongly committed to a bidirectional translational approach, which emphasises the complementary nature of basic science and laboratory outcomes on one hand and clinical research at the bedside on the other.

    Key ECNP activities include:
    • Hosting a wide range of meetings to provide a Europe-wide platform for discussion and exchange and promoting fruitful dialogue between neuroscientists and clinicians.
    • Supporting the research and careers of young investigators through the ECNP Young Scientists Initiative.
    • Promoting common standards of excellence throughout Europe, especially in countries with fewer resources for research.
    • Playing a leading role in policy debates and providing reliable, evidence-based information for the media, governments, patients or the public.

    • Strengthening collaboration in Europe through the ECNP Networks Initiative (ENI), collecting standardised clinical data from more than 10,000 patients.


  • For further information, please visit www.ecnp.eu.

    References

    http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/nerve_signaling.html

    Olesen J, Öberg G, Vestergaard P. Disorders of the brain: costs, recent progress and future possibilities. Eur J Neurol 1998;5:425-430

    Olesen J and Leonardi M. The burden of brain diseases in Europe. Eur J Neurosci 2003;10:471-77

    Ragan I. Report of the 3rd European Brain Policy Forum: focus on persons with schizophrenia and the European Society. Presented at the 3rd European Brain Policy Forum, February 23-24, 2010, Madrid, Spain

    Sobocky P, Jönsson B, Angst J, et al. Cost of depression in Europe. J Ment Health Policy Econ 2006;9:87-98

    Spinney L. European Brain Policy Forum 2009: Depression and the European Society. Eur Psychiatry 2009;24:550-551

    Wittchen HU, Jönsson B, Olesen J. Towards a better understanding of the size and burden and cost of brain disorders in Europe. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 2005;15:355-356

    Wittchen HU, Jacobi F, et al., 2011: The size and burden of mental disorders and other disorders of the brain in Europe 2010. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 2011; 21:655

    European College of Neuropsychopharmacology

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