Over two days, the Faculty hosted an unprecedented number of over 400 delegates from approximately 12 countries. With a host of distinguished speakers and a range of session formats, the conference covered important clinical and research topics.
Professor Burn, our College President, opened the conference with an update on the College’s Neuroscience Project, which was followed by a dedicated session on ‘Neurosciences for Psychiatrists’, covering important areas in Neuroanatomy, Neurophysiology and Neuroimaging.
Dr Paul Johns, Consultant Neuropathologist and Senior Lecturer in Neuroanatomy at St George’s Hospital in South London, discussed the functional anatomy of the human Amygdala, including how the Amygdala is involved in implicit learning and its implication in a wide range of neuropsychiatric conditions, such as anxiety, depression, phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder. Neurophysiology in a mental health setting was then explored by Dr Nandini Mullatti.
Dr Oliver Robinson, who runs the Anxiety Lab within the Neuroscience and Mental Health Group at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, subsequently provided a historical overview of the last 30 years of neuroimaging in anxiety disorders. Attempts to develop new treatments such as deep brain stimulation on the back of some of the early work were discussed.
A lively discussion around the conceptions of the Mind and various proposed models was certainly one of the conference highlights. Professor Cavanna of the University of Birmingham presented an overview of the clinical interface between neurology and psychiatry and how this is illustrated in the behavioural symptoms caused by neuropsychiatric conditions.
In an interesting talk entitled ‘Delusion and rationality’, Lisa Bortolotti, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham, discussed how understanding the origins of delusions can enhance our insight into their psychopathology and potentially inform the treatment plan. Professor Karl Friston offered a highly regarded session on the computational psychiatry of psychosis. The talk utilised schizophrenia as a case study for this approach.
The concept of ‘Neuro-Dogma’ was challenged in the context of our medical humanities session. Following an introduction on ‘Neuro-culture’ by Dr Ken Barrett, internationally renowned Professor Andrew Lees presented an overview of his book ‘Mentored by a Madman’. This was followed by a short critique of ‘neuro-mania’ by Professor Ray Tallis.
The conference also explored the challenges around the diagnosis and management of Frontal Lobe Seizures. Aspects such as the semiology and genetics of frontal seizures and differential diagnosis with parasomnias were discussed by Dr Aileen McGronigal, Professor Zuberi and Dr Chris Derry.
The growing interest in Functional Neurological Disorder, its clinical aspects and service challenges prompted a dedicated plenary session that was chaired by Dr Nick Medford, who also contributed to the discussion with a talk on multidisciplinary inpatient treatment. Functional cognitive disorders were covered by Dr Stoyan Popkirov. Various overlapping clinical syndromes were discussed, alongside underlying mechanisms and diagnostic features. Service development issues in this particular respect were explored by Professor Mark Edwards.
A carer, who is professionally also deeply immersed in the world of Neuroscience, talked about Brain Injury as a family affair and the gap between the Neuropsychiatric sequelae of Brain Injury as presented in academia and what actually happens within families behind closed doors.
As always, our interactive seminars covered various clinical, legal and research topics addressing a wide range of educational needs in a format that has always been highly valued by delegates. These included topics such as brain injury in the court of protection, motion and emotion across the lifespan and medicine and psychology in managing challenging behaviour after brain injury. Other sessions in the second day programme included assessing and treating circadian rhythm disorders, how flying affects the brain and ‘funny turns; relevance to psychiatry’.
As in previous years, the conference offered a platform for trainees to present their work in poster as well as oral format. Trainees were encouraged through recognition and award schemes.
The next conference for the Faculty of Neuropsychiatry is scheduled for 19 and 20 September 2019. As the programme is being developed, the Faculty would certainly welcome any suggestions or contributions from colleagues; please forward any proposals to Emma.George@rcpsych.ac.uk.