Neuropsychiatry: New Horizons in research and service delivery

Neuropsychiatry Annual Conference 2022

Our 2022 meeting was the first Faculty conference to combine in-person attendance with live streaming and we had an approximately 50:50 split of those attending in person and online. Being a ‘hybrid’ event helped us to flexibly accommodate speakers and colleagues who would not have otherwise been able to attend. We were delighted to welcome international colleagues from countries including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Portugal, New Zealand, Sweden, Pakistan and Malta.

The event was jointly organised with the International Neuropsychiatric Association (INA) and, as always, it covered a number of exciting topics highlighting new research developments and how recent advances could be translated into more effective clinical care.

A dedicated session at the start of the conference discussed autoantibodies in neuropsychiatry. Professor Lennox presented an update on the current understanding of the role Anti-neuronal antibodies have in the development of psychosis. She also presented guidance for psychiatrists on screening for antibodies and the management of patients with psychosis and antibodies. Dr Pollak then discussed the relevance of neuronal autoantibodies beyond psychosis, in conditions such as dementia and autism.

Another session addressed the neurometabolic disorders in neuropsychiatry. Dr Hackett took the conference delegates on a ‘case-based tour’ discussing neuropsychiatry and metabolic medicine.

Conference delegates had the opportunity to hear about Neuropsychiatry of Epilepsy. Professor Martine Gavaret talked about ‘epilepsy, plants and herbs’. Even in countries with access to modern medicine, it is acknowledged that alternative treatments are commonly used such as herbal products. Herbal medicine is usually considered as safe and healthy. It was recommended that since most patients do not inform their treating doctor that they are taking herbal products, healthcare professionals could initiate a dialogue in order to prevent complications. Within the same plenary session, Professor Stephanie Schorge then talked about gene therapy for focal epilepsy. One message that was highlighted was that changing the activity of neurons in different models of epilepsy (which are not associated with mutations) would open the door for mechanistic treatment of networks in the brain.

A plenary session organised by the International Neuropsychiatric Association addressed the issue of ageing and risk of dementia. Professor Skoog discussed preclinical Alzheimer’s disease addressing frequency, risk factors and consequences. Professor John O’Brien then delivered a thought provoking talk around what would be the right age to prevent dementia. It has been estimated that up to a third of dementia cases may be preventable should risk factors be modified. The issue of association versus causality is important to cautiously take into account, however. Definitive evidence that addressing risk can alter the course of cognitive decline and prevent dementia is still needed. Based on the presented PREVENT Dementia study, a suggestion was made that around 20 – 25 years prior to disease onset may be an optimal time to prevent dementia.

Amongst the educational highlights of the event, the INA Lishman and Cajal lectures presented exciting developments in stereotactic neurosurgery in OCD by Professor Zrinzo and insights into mechanisms of addiction utilising Deep Brain Stimulation by Professor Voon.

A dedicated session on Women in Neuropsychiatry added a different dimension to both genders! Dr Grace highlighted that in Medicine, women can be placed at a disadvantage by conscious and unconscious biases. Dr McWhirter addressed the question on whether Functional Neurological Disorder is a feminist issue. It was a privilege to also learn about patients’ experience based on feedback from Neurological Alliance survey, presented by Georgina Carr.

Besides poster presentations, our trainees had their own session chaired by the academic secretary, Dr George El-Nimr. Trainees were able to present their research work, with subsequent award giving.

As always, our selection of seminars allowed delegates to choose the session that is most relevant to their clinical, medico-legal or academic interest. Professor Yun-Kwok Wing delivered a seminar on REM sleep behavioural disorder and its relevance to depression and neurodegeneration. In another seminar entitled ‘How to become enlightened – we need to know’, Dr Peter Fenwick explored the concept of enlightenment, its physiological correlates and associated mental states that could be confused with psychosis. Medicolegal practice in Neuropsychiatry was the subject of another seminar that discussed the interplay between medicine and law that benefited from medical input led by Dr Grace and legal input led by Mr William Audland KC.

Following the conclusion of the educational sessions of the programme, the winners amongst our poster and oral trainee presenters were announced and prizes were awarded.

Our Faculty continues to be committed to organising its annual conference to the highest educational standard.