Deborah Brauser

October 17, 2014

BERLIN ― New addiction treatment targets, structural brain changes in schizophrenia, findings on the effects of seasonal changes on the brain, and epigenetics as a possible target for intervention are some of the hottest topics being presented and discussed here at the 27th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Congress.

Dr Guy Goodwin

"It's exciting that we now have the progress we have in the genetics world ― that we're able to talk about the genetic basis of the major psychiatric disorders with some confidence. I think that forms the backdrop of all our sessions that involve schizophrenia and bipolar disorder," ECNP president Guy Goodwin, FMedSci, who is also a professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, told Medscape Medical News.

"I think the maturity of the science at the moment is at an exciting stage."

The ECNP will also unveil a new app to help clinicians better understand and ease the switch to the upcoming Nomenclature Project, a new system for reclassifying psychotropic drugs.

In addition, this year's keynote speaker will be Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, professor of bioengineering and psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, California. His talk, which is scheduled for the first evening, will be about "circuit dynamics of motivated behavior."

"He is remarkable. He still sees patients but has also made two outstanding, really fundamental advances in basic neuroscience. First, for developing methods in optogenetics, and secondly, for imaging brain cells in tissue slices," said Dr Goodwin. "He is an exemplar of the application of neuroscience to clinical practice. And we're delighted to welcome him."

New Location, Building

This is the first time the ECNP meeting will be held in Berlin, Germany ― and it will occur in the newly built CityCube Building. In response to participant feedback, the meeting has been rescheduled to end on Tuesday but will still include six plenary sessions, a long schedule of scientific cafes, scientific symposia divided into five tracks, and more than 900 posters, including the first-time introduction of e-posters.

In addition, rapid-fire posters sessions will occur during 5-minute oral presentations to highlight best content.

"We think it's an action-packed program that we hope will serve [attendees] very well. It's an exciting time to come to Germany," Dr Goodwin said.

He also noted involvement of newer funding models through private-public partnerships in the area of neuroscience. In fact, access to the Innovative Medicines Initiative of the European Commission "is of great importance, and there will be interesting new data being presented describing future prospects and past successes."

"This helps to address problems we identified back in 2011 with the withdrawal of pharmaceutical support for research in Europe generally and of commercial investment. That made something of a crisis in applied neuroscience research. But this kind of initiative is the only way to address it, with governments and particularly the European Commission stepping up to the plate," Dr Goodwin said.

The last day of the event will address the latest version of the Nomenclature Project. Although it was created by the ECNP, it is being carried out in collaboration with the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, Collegium Internationale Neuro-Psychopharmacologicum, and the Asian College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

Immediate past president of the ECNP and current chair of the ECNP Taskforce on Nomenclature, Joseph Zohar, MD, professor of psychiatry at Tel Aviv University in Israel, helped with the development of the new app, which will be launched at the conference.

"The idea with this app is that the individual can look at a specific medication, not only according to the brand or generic name but also according to the indication, the mechanism, the pharmacological target, etc," said Dr Zohar in an interview with ECNP Matters.

"This allows people to use the system in an interactive way," said Dr Goodwin.

Renewed Hope

Overall, he said that he hopes attendees leave the event with "a renewed sense of hope and optimism for the future of the field and for treatments based on rational neuroscientific principles that will help patients. That's our mission," he said.

Last year, approximately 6000 clinicians and researchers attended the meeting.

"This is a great opportunity to come and meet the best minds applying their force to mental illness. And we anticipate it will continue to be a magnet for people all over the world," said Dr Goodwin.

The 27th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress will be held in Berlin from October 18 to October 21. More information on the meeting can be found on the organization's website.

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