On the 15th and 16th September 2016 the Headquarters of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London witnessed an exceptionally successful annual conference for the Faculty of Neuropsychiatry. The event was oversubscribed, with speakers and delegates from many countries around the world.
International perspectives and a number of advanced research initiatives were presented. The conference also explored how medical humanities and modern science can work together to inform day-to-day practice and future thinking.
The conference opened with an introduction from Professor Eileen Joyce, Chair of the Faculty of Neuropsychiatry before Dr Wendy Burn presented an overview of the Gatsby/Welcome Neuroscience Project. This two year initiative by the Royal College of Psychiatrists aims at introducing a modern neuroscience perspective into psychiatrists’ clinical work. This involves reshaping psychiatric training to incorporate recent progress in basic and clinical neuroscience.
The following session addressed the topic of alcoholic brain damage and was chaired by Dr El-Nimr, the Faculty’s Academic Secretary. The first talk was on Neuro-psychopharmacology of Alcoholism and was presented by Professor Anne Lingford-Hughes, Professor of Addiction Biology at Imperial College London and Chair of the Academic Faculty of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Professor Lingford-Hughes’ research has focused on using PET and fMRI neuro-imaging and neuro-pharmacological challenges to characterise the neurobiology of addiction. This talk was followed by Professor David Nutt’s presentation on “stopping alcohol from damaging our brains; a national perspective”. Professor Nutt emphasised that alcohol is actually the leading cause of death in men under 50 years in the UK today. He explained how we have got to this unwelcome position and proposed proven approaches, such as minimum unit pricing and restricted sales, to rectify it.
Professor Kenneth Wilson then talked about how services for patients with alcohol related brain damage can be established. Professor Wilson, a retired Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at the University of Liverpool, gave an overview of service provision for people with alcohol related brain damage, providing a financially viable case for provision and generalisation of the service.
The second plenary session covered important issues related to neuroscience and humanities. Professor Michael Kopelman, Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychiatry, King’s College London considered how brain and culture can influence both neurological and psychogenic forms of amnesia. Dr Ken Barrett, retired Consultant Neuropsychiatrist then gave an inspiring talk on the changing views on the adaptability of the brain. Dr Barrett considered how in the last 30 years the mainstream view of the brain has shifted from the hard-wired, immutable, inflexible and functionally localised position to something more dynamic, adaptable and functionally complex.
Professor Andrea Cavanna of Birmingham University gave a neuro-philosophy perspective on consciousness in neuroscience and culture. The increasing appreciation of neuroscientists of the conscious experiences and also the increasing interest of philosophers in neuro-scientific data to refine theoretical positions were highlighted.
The afternoon session included a number of clinical and medico-legal seminars. Seminars covered Management challenges in functional neurological disorders, facilitated by Dr Niruj Agrawal, talking to the Court of Protection about the brain, that was jointly delivered by Dr Janet Grace and Mr Joe O’Brien. A seminar on sleep classification was led by Dr Irshaad Ebrahim.
Following on from the seminar sessions, Professor Alasdair Coles (Professor of Neuroimmunology at the University of Cambridge) talked about behaviour and neuro-immunology. Professor Coles addressed the relationship between the brain and immune system and how they interact at multiple levels. The potential impact of this on therapeutic strategies was also highlighted. The role of anti-neuronal membrane antibodies in psychosis was discussed.
Professor Josef Priller, Professor and Chair of the Department of Neuropsychiatry at Charité, Germany presented advances in Huntington’s disease research and how this can be translated into practice. Recent developments in the treatment of Huntington’s disease were presented, with particular focus on the neuropsychiatric symptoms. Dr Valerie Voon of the University of Cambridge then talked about new advances in understanding and managing neuropsychiatric symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Recent studies were focused on dopaminergic, serotonergic and noradrenergic systems and interventional studies relevant to psychosis, apathy, impassivity and impulse control disorders.
On Friday, Mr James Piercy gave an inspiring talk about his journey with brain injury, being on the receiving end of care both in the acute and chronic phases.
The plenary covered the latest developments in neuropsychiatry services in a session entitled “Neuropsychiatry from around the Globe”. Dr Esan talked about Neuropsychiatry in Anglophone countries of West Africa. Dr Wong followed with an interesting talk entitled “The budding Neuropsychiatry service: Sharing of experience from Hong Kong and the East Asian region”. The impressive British Columbia Neuropsychiatric programme, based in Vancouver, Canada was presented by Professor Hurwitz and Dr Hassan. Building on this insight into what happens in different parts of the world in terms of neuropsychiatry services, Dr Faruqui, immediate past Chair of our Faculty gave a presentation on how our Faculty developed international collaboration in delivering clinical neuropsychiatry training.
Later in the morning, a number of trainees presented their research work in the context of “trainee award presentations” session. This covered specific clinical areas including autistic spectrum disorder, the use of transcranial direct current stimulation in Lewy Body dementia, the retrospective implications of NMDA receptor-antibody encephalitis, neuropsychiatric symptoms in multiple sclerosis and the neuropsychiatric outcomes in phenylketonuria.
A collection of seminars were then delivered by a number of eminent clinicians. Hurdles in establishing services for brain injury was presented by Drs Raymont, Mueller and Brooks. Professor Turk and Drs Garg and Mukjerjee held a seminar on behavioural phenotypes. Conference delegates also appreciated a seminar delivered by Dr Mueller on EEG in neuropsychiatry clinic, particularly addressing questions that clinicians are “too embarrassed to ask!”. The day concluded with a lively debate on whether sleep disorders should be managed by psychiatrists. Professor Shapiro supported the motion which was opposed by Professor Williams. Professor Williams has extensive experience in establishing sleep services and getting involved in various national and international sleep related initiatives. Professor Shapiro argued passionately that psychiatrists are best placed to manage sleep disorders. The day was closed by announcing the oral presentation and poster winners. In addition to a financial reward, winning trainees were able to publish their work in the Faculty of Neuropsychiatry official newsletter.
Excellent feedback was received from delegates, sponsors and speakers from different countries and disciplines. This year’s conference will also be held at the Royal College of Psychiatrists headquarters on 14 and 15 September 2017.