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Are we doing enough for our brains?

Written by Liliana Cunha and Sarah McCormack,

Workshop hashtag: #brainSTOA

Are we doing enough for our brains?

© Shutterstock / Enfant Terrible

Depression, stroke, dementia and other brain disorders affect one in every fifteen Europeans every year according to the Word Health Organisation. Brain disorders are the largest unmet health issue affecting European citizens today. The prevalence of brain disorders in the elderly is increasing with the ageing population. Considering current demographic trends, brain research aiming at prevention and understanding the causes and development of brain disorders is crucial for public health.

To address this topic in the European Parliament, its Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel, in cooperation with The DANA Foundation, will host a workshop on brain research on 15 March 2016. The event will be chaired by Paul Rübig, MEP and STOA Chair. STOA is happy to host again this annual event, taking place within the Brain Awareness Week (BAW), since it co-organised it previously in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

BAW is a global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. Every March, BAW unites the efforts of partner organisations worldwide in a celebration of the brain for people of all ages. Partners include universities, hospitals, schools, government agencies and professional groups.

In an appropriate political setting, speakers at the workshop will discuss the challenges around the brain, including the need for further research and technological development.

Professor Richard Morris, from the University of Edinburgh, will speak on the state of play of neuroscience research in Europe and the need for not only treating disorders, but also understanding brain function. He will also talk about how European researchers are working collaboratively to resolve problems and the enthusiasm of participating scientists’ across Europe for active public engagement.

Towards a multidimensional care

Bengt Winbald and Angel Cedazo-Minguez, working together at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, will talk about mechanisms for understanding the early stages of dementia and how prevention studies have shown that we can delay and reduce it by targeting risks and protective factors. Biomedical research has provided insights into both the causes and the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, yet further research is required to create and improve treatment options.

Research and patient care organisation are other important issues. Niall Boyce, from The Lancet Psychiatry, will present their REWARD Campaign aiming to enhance efficiency and quality in neuroscience research. Bernard Dan, from the European Academy of Childhood Disability, will bring to the discussion a perspective on brain research for children. This is especially important as brain disorders affect not only the children that suffer from them, but their families as well. He will discuss differences amongst European countries concerning services, diagnosis and treatment, and will talk about the shift towards looking at the various consequences of impairments or diseases, instead of solely focusing on treatments.

The importance of prevention

Raising societal awareness about mental health is one of the priorities for the coming years. Given that only around half of European citizens with a severe mental disorder receive medical intervention, Mara Dierssen, from the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Spain, will talk about the need to support a patient-centric multidimensional care and approach to preventing and treating mental diseases. She will also discuss the need for engaging with society to raise awareness about mental health and well-being.

To find out more about the programme and the speakers, click here. You’re still in time to register for the event.

About Scientific Foresight (STOA)

The Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA) carries out interdisciplinary research and provides strategic advice in the field of science and technology options assessment and scientific foresight. It undertakes in-depth studies and organises workshops on developments in these fields, and it hosts the European Science-Media Hub (ESMH), a platform to promote networking, training and knowledge sharing between the EP, the scientific community and the media. All this work is carried out under the guidance of the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA), composed of 25 MEPs nominated by nine EP Committees. The STOA Panel forms an integral part of the structure of the EP.


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