Liam Davenport

August 30, 2017

PARIS — The role of epigenetics in disease etiology, stress and resilience in psychiatric disorders, and the growing importance of technology in treatment will form three of the central themes of a leading congress for neuroscientists, psychiatrists, neurologists, and psychologists.

The 30th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP), which takes place in Paris on September 2 - 5, focuses on the science and treatment of brain disorders and will bring together up to 6000 attendees from around the world.

The program will feature 35 scientific symposia, seven educational sessions, and a plethora of brainstorming sessions, expert science exchanges, plenary lectures, and career development sessions, among others, across 4 days. In addition, more than 1000 posters will be presented.

The congress is organized by the ECNP, an independent scientific association that focuses on the science and treatment of brain disorders, and a noninstitutional supporter of neuroscience research and education in Europe.

Astrid Linthorst, PhD, professor of neuroscience at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom, and chair of the Scientific Program Committee at ECNP 2017, told Medscape Medical News that the program will be very interesting "for all kinds of attendees, whether they are basic scientists or clinical researchers or practicing psychiatrists."

Terror Attacks Addressed

For Dr Linthorst, one of the highlights of this year's program is the first symposium of the congress, which will be conducted on Saturday afternoon. At this patient session, terror attacks and the subsequent treatment of patients will be discussed. It will focus on what should, and should not, be done in the "golden hours" after an attack.

Following the opening scientific symposia and educational sessions, John H. Krystal, MD, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Yale—New Haven Hospital, will give the keynote lecture on Saturday evening, on glutamate targeting in psychiatric disease.

There will also be a series of plenary lectures throughout the 4-day congress, not least of which will be the ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award lecture on Monday afternoon, entitled "A Journey Into Serotonin: 40 Years of Discoveries and Surprises."

Dr Linthorst believes this lecture, which will be given by Michel Hamon, PhD, director of research at the French Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) and professor of neuropharmacology at Pierre and Marie Curie University (Paris VI), will appeal to junior and more experienced attendees alike.

Dr Hamon is the recipient of the 2017 ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award in recognition of his groundbreaking work during the past 4 decades on serotonin and the role of the serotonin receptors in the brain in the treatment of psychiatric illness.

Among the 35 scientific symposia and seven educational sessions, Dr Linthorst sees three central themes emerging, one of which is the role of genetics and epigenetics in disease etiology.

She said that these will discuss "how can we use genetics and epigenetics in improving our current therapies and developing new therapies, and we also have an educational session on how genetic studies advance understanding and treatment of psychiatric disease ― how you look into that, what kind of pitfalls are there, this kind of thing."

Stress and Resilience

Another theme that spans the sessions is that of stress and resilience. "We have a number of stress-related psychiatric disorders. They are very prevalent in society, and they are on the rise. So it's very important for this congress to talk about that and to see the developments not only in stress research but also in resilience," said Dr Linthorst.

The sessions will cover coping mechanisms, as well sex differences, which are of particular importance, given that some disorders, such as depression, are more prevalent in women than in men.

"What I think is really interesting is that we have two sessions which focus on physical exercise. We have an educational session, asking: What is exercise doing to the brain? Is this something which we should encourage in patients?

"There's also a scientific symposium on physical exercise in schizophrenia, so there we come back to this whole idea of lifestyle and resilience," she added.

The third main theme that will be explored at this year's meeting is one of technology and its application, with a session on brain implants and one on the use of smartphones to change the patient experience in the treatment of movement disorders.

There will also be a session on the neurobiology underlying neurofeedback as a potential therapy for patients with attention—deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Educational, Networking Opportunity

Building on an innovation at the 2016 ECNP Congress in Vienna, the program in which top articles are presented makes a return this year. These six half—hour sessions take place during the lunch break, with a leading expert presenting important articles published during the previous 12 months.

"It's a very focused half an hour on four or five papers ― why are they important, how they advance the field.... We did that for the first time last year in Vienna, and those sessions proved to be enormously popular; basically, the room was full, and we could not fit all the people in the room," said Dr Lindhorst.

This year, the topics include child and adolescent disorders, addiction, experimental medicine, and anorexia nervosa, the latter presentation will focus specifically on translational research.

The program will also explore, via the educational sessions, diseases and disorders that have not yet been well studied or for which there are not yet good treatments. These include hoarding disorder and borderline personality disorder.

Finally, the ECNP will continue its commitment to stimulate early career scientists via a series of career development sessions. In addition, there will be two symposia in which new data will be presented by early career scientists selected from the poster presentations at the annual ECNP workshop in Nice, France.

Dr Lindhorst noted that there is much more to the ECNP 2017 Congress than just the major sessions.

For her, the poster sessions, which feature more than 1000 new research studies that span the entire field of neuropsychopharmacology, represent an important educational and networking opportunity.

"For instance, during the lunch break, people can grab a sandwich and talk to people, and often you hear even more outside of the talks, because...they have other data which are maybe still in progress. There, you learn quite a lot about the field," she said.

30th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP)s. September 2 - 5, Paris, France.

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