What's Hot at ECNP 2018?

Liam Davenport

October 04, 2018

BARCELONA, Spain — The impact of lifestyle on psychiatric disorders, the role of the immune system in psychiatry, and the effects of mass migration on mental health are just three of the key themes when neuroscientists, psychiatrists, neurologists, and psychologists gather from around the world for a leading congress.

The 31st European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Congress, which takes place in Barcelona, Spain, October 6 - 9, will bring together around 5000 neuroscience researchers and clinical practitioners to take part in dozens of scientific symposia and educational sessions, as well as abstract and poster sessions.

Together with a number of novel interactive sessions designed to foster discussion between leading figures and early career scientists and clinicians, the congress will explore how understanding of brain function and human behavior can be translated into novel treatments and improve public health.

Chair of this year's Scientific Program Committee, Astrid Linthorst, PhD, professor of Neuroscience, University of Bristol, the United Kingdom, told Medscape Medical News that, given the wide variety of sessions at the congress, each delegate will be sure to find new information on his or her own topics of interest.

In addition, Linthorst said she expects that the huge range of novel session formats for this year, along with the more traditional lectures and symposia, will mean that attendees will find the congress "even more interactive and even more stimulating" than before.

Lifestyle Topics

Linthorst explained that several themes run across the program at this year's congress, one of which is, in the broadest sense, lifestyle.

On Saturday, Gareth Leng, PhD, from the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, will give a keynote lecture on the neuroscience of food choice and obesity, and on Sunday afternoon, there will be a symposium on the gut-brain connection in psychiatry.

On Monday morning, another symposium will look at the interplay between mind, body, and environment, with topics such as how diet and physical activity affect mood disorder vulnerability and course.

Tuesday morning will see another symposium on lifestyle and psychiatry, this time concerning the psychoneurobiology of resilience.

Another meeting theme for Linthorst is that of the role of the immune system in psychiatry.

Along with several symposia dedicated to the topic, Josep Dolmau, MD, PhD, a senior investigator at the University of Barcelona and adjunct professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, will give a plenary lecture during the Monday lunchtime period on the pathogenesis of autoimmune disease and the role of autoimmunity in psychiatric disease.

A timely topic that is sure to be of interest to many delegates is that of posttraumatic stress disorder in the current age of mass migration and asylum, Linthorst added. This will be the focus of an educational session on Sunday afternoon, with two speakers discussing the mental health and treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

She also pointed out that there will be a number of sessions throughout the 4 days of the Congress dedicated to child psychiatry, including a regulatory spotlight session on Tuesday afternoon that will look at the development of medicines in child and adolescent psychiatry.

"More Interactive and Stimulating"

Another program highlight with be the ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award lecture, to be given this year by Marion Leboyer, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry, University of Paris Est, France.

"She is an expert on the interaction between genetics and environmental risks, and her lecture is called On the Road to Precision Medicine in Psychiatry," said Linthorst. She added that the topic will be of interest to a broad range of attendees.

Along with the main themes of the meeting, a variety of new session formats have been introduced for 2018, with the aim of making the congress more interactive and stimulating for participants.

These include an interactive discussion symposium on Sunday afternoon, which will explore how both patients and research can benefit from digital technology.

It will cover concepts such as passive remote behavioral monitoring, online mood tracking and psychoeducation, and the use of mobile health technologies to diagnosis and predict psychiatric disorders.

"In a similar vein, we have a debate on evidence-based findings in the diagnosis of pediatric mood disorders," Linthorst said.

This will take place on Tuesday morning and will involve two teams presenting their evidence and ideas under the watchful eye of the moderator, Andreas Reif, MD, University Hospital Frankfurt, Germany.

After discussion between the teams, the audience will have the opportunity to discuss the topic in small groups and to put their comments to the speakers.

Unconventional Topics

The congress will take on more unconventional topics on Monday afternoon, when the ECNP Inspired session, named, From Psychedelics to Fish on Bikes: Learning From the Unusual, invites short presentations from European and US experts.

This session will feature talks on why ethics are an essential part of psychiatry, the use of psychedelics in psychiatry, cognitive enhancement, the role of insomnia in psychiatric disorders, and the use of genomics to find new drugs.

Another new format for 2018 is the Poster Jam, in which twelve selected posters will be presented in 3 minutes — in the form of three parallel sessions focusing on four posters each.

Finally, this year's ECNP Congress will see the introduction of special Campfire sessions. These experimental and intimate sessions will involve 20 participants sitting around an electronic campfire inside a special "bubble."

"Specific topics will be discussed very openly, very informally, and some of those topics will be of particular interest for our early career scientists," Linthorst explained.

"We want the early career scientists to have different opportunities to discuss data and to learn and to interact with more senior people and, in this way, to help to enhance their career," she added.

One other highlight for many attendees at the ECNP Congress will be the presentation of eight papers selected from the Neuropsychopharmacology Workshop, held in Nice, France, in March.

In addition, Linthorst said she's looking forward to the poster sessions on Sunday and Monday, which will present the latest in research, "and you see what's really happening at the moment," particularly from the early career scientists.

31st European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Congress. Barcelona, Spain, October 6 - 9, 2018.

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