The European Brain Council is a unique organisation bringing together pan-European bodies representing neurologists, basic neuroscientists, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, neuro-pharmacologists as well as patients federations and relevant areas of industries. In consequence, the EBC has to deal with many different aspects induced by brain disorders, be it the diseases themselves, research, treatment or improved quality of life of patients.

Key Facts

  • Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the leading cause of dementia;
  • AD is characterized by a progressive decline in brain function, which typically begins with deterioration in memory;
  • Incidence of AD increases significantly with age;
  • There is currently no cure for AD. However, drug treatments are available that can temporarily alleviate some symptoms or slow down their progression in some people.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia, causing about half of all cases. In AD the brain begins to shrink (atrophy) and the number of nerve fibres in the brain gradually reduces. Levels of some neurotransmitters (brain messengers) are also reduced – in particular, acetylcholine. Tiny deposits called plaques also form throughout the brain. It is not known why these changes in the brain occur, or exactly how they cause dementia. Alzheimer’s disease gradually gets more severe over time as the brain becomes increasingly affected.

The scale of the problem

The incidence of AD increases with age. In 2001, there was an estimated 4.9 million people affected by AD in Europe, which was estimated to double by 2040. Worldwide it is thought that there are more than 15 million people affected by AD.

Alzheimers fact sheet [PDF]

Key Facts

  • Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder with 121 million people affected worldwide;
  • Symptoms include low mood, loss of interest, low self-worth and poor sleep, appetite and energy levels;
  • The tendency to develop depression may be inherited although both biological and psychological factors probably play a role;
  • The course of depression varies from one episode to a life-long disorder.

What is depression?

Depression is a common psychiatric disorder that presents with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration. These problems can become chronic or recurrent and lead to substantial impairments in an individual’s ability to take care of his or her everyday responsibilities.

The tendency to develop depression may be inherited; there is some evidence that depression may run in families. Most experts believe that both biological and psychological factors play a role. The course of clinical depression varies widely, from one episode to a life-long disorder.

The scale of the problem

Depression is a common disorder, affecting about 121 million people worldwide. It carries a high burden in terms of treatment costs, effect on families and carers and loss of workplace productivity, and is considered by the WHO to be the leading cause of disability worldwide. By the year 2020, the WHO project that depression will be the second highest contributor to the global burden of disease for all ages and both sexes.

A recently reported study revealed an overall prevalence of depressive disorders in Europe of 8.56%. Higher prevalence was seen in urban areas of Ireland and the UK, while particularly low prevalence was seen in Spain.

Depression fact sheet [PDF]

Key Facts

  • Dystonia is a movement disorder in which muscle contractions cause twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures;
  • More than 500,000 people are affected by dystonia across Europe;
  • It can develop at any time from childhood to adulthood, and it can occur spontaneously or as a result of another condition;
  • Although it is not a terminal illness, its symptoms can severely disrupt a person’s life.

What is dystonia?

Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder involving involuntary and abnormal movements and postures which can affect just one part of the body or several different areas. It affects males and females of all ages; in adults, dystonia tends to remain located in a specific part of the body (focal form) such as the neck, hands, face or eyelids. However, if it starts in childhood, it often spreads to other parts of the body (generalized) and can be particularly disabling.

 The scale of the problem

Dystonia is the third most common movement disorder after Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor. Epidemiological studies indicate that there are more than 500,000 people across Europe with some form of the disorder, many of whom are unaware that they have dystonia. The disorder can be difficult to diagnose, which means that many patients remain untreated, their symptoms unrecognised.

Dystonia fact sheet [PDF]

Key Facts

  • Migraine affects 11% of the world’s population.
  • It is a painful headache often associated with nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances, over- sensitivity to sound or light.
  • Migraine causes significant burden to the individual in terms of pain, disability, damaged quality of life and inability to work.
  • The societal burden of migraine is under-recognized, despite costing an estimated €27 billion per year in Europe alone.

 What is migraine?

Migraine is a painful and often disabling condition which is one of a number of primary headache disorders. It also occurs secondarily to a considerable number of other conditions. A wide range of headache types have been classified in detail by the International Headache Society. The most common among them are tension-type headache (TTH), migraine, cluster headache and chronic daily headache syndromes.

 The scale of the problem

Eleven percent of the world’s adult population suffer from migraine. Migraine was listed by the World Health Organization1 in 2000 as the 19th highest cause of disability (12th in women). The burden of illness is high because, whilst it affects all ages, it is most disabling to those aged 35-45 years – a productive period of life. An estimate of the total cost of migraine in Europe is €27 billion per year. Whilst this largely reflects the high indirect costs incurred in developed countries, sufficient evidence exists that migraine imposes similar levels of ill-health in all continents and in developing as well as developed countries.

Migraine fact sheet [PDF]

Key Facts

  • Around 6.3 million people worldwide have PD, with no differentiation for race or culture;
  • Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic and progressive neurological disorder;
  • Individuals with PD experience difficulties with movement including shaking, stiffness, slow movements and problems with balance;
  • There is no cure for PD, and at present, no disease modifying therapies – current treatment focuses on symptom management.

 What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic and progressive neurological disorder which at present has no known cure. The main symptoms are tremor, rigidity (stiffness), slow movements (bradykinesia) and balance difficulties (postural instability). In most cases the cause is unknown and is therefore referred to as ‘sporadic’ or ‘idiopathic’ PD. There are other neurodegenerative disorders sometimes referred to as Parkinson plus or atypical parkinsonian syndromes.

The scale of the problem

Worldwide, it is estimated that 6.3 million people have PD with no differentiation for race and culture. The age of onset is usually over 60, but it is estimated that one in ten are diagnosed before the age of 50, and it can affect people in their 40’s and younger.

According to available statistics, 1.2 million people in Europe have Parkinson’s, which approximates to:

  •  260,000 in Germany
  •  200,000 in Italy
  •  150,000 in Spain
  •  120,000 in UK
  •  117,000 in France.

This equates to a rate of more than 1 per 1000 people in Europe, making it the second most common neurodegenerative disorder.

Parkinson’s fact sheet [PDF]

Key Facts

  • Schizophrenia affects around 24 million people worldwide;
  • It usually starts in late adolescence or early adulthood and is a lifelong condition;
  • Symptoms include a lack of insight, hallucinations and delusions;
  • Treatment with antipsychotic medication and psychological therapy can reduce symptoms and improve functioning;

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder in which individuals experience episodes of ‘psychosis’ which involve symptoms such as hallucinations (hearing voices), delusions (false ideas), disordered thoughts and problems with feelings, behaviour and motivation. In many people symptoms recur or persist long-term, but some people have just one episode. It first affects people in the age range of 15-35 years. Most commonly it begins in late adolescence and the early twenties in men and later in women.

Schizophrenia is widely misunderstood with many people believing that those affected have a split or dual personality, which is not the case. The media have also exaggerated the likelihood of violent behaviour amongst schizophrenics; a person with schizophrenia is far more likely to be the victim of violent crime than the instigator.

The scale of the problem

Schizophrenia affects about 7 per 1000 of the adult population, but because the disorder is chronic the overall incidence is high, at around 1% of the population. This means that schizophrenia affects around 24 million people worldwide. However, the symptoms are treatable, with medicines and psychological and social care, with costs being equivalent to around US$2 per month per patient.

The earlier treatment is initiated, the more effective it is, however the majority of people with schizophrenia do not receive treatment, which prolongs their illness. Most of those who are treated are cared for in the community with active family and community involvement.

Schizophrenia fact sheet [PDF]

Key Facts

  • Stroke is a medical and sometimes a surgical emergency;
  • It accounts for 5 million deaths annually and is the second leading cause of death worldwide;
  • Age, gender, race and lifestyle can all have an impact on an individual’s risk of stroke;
  • More patients survive stroke today than in the past, but a large proportion of them will be disabled for the rest of their lives.

What is stroke?

A stroke is a medical and sometimes a surgical emergency. It is caused by an interruption of the blood supply to the brain, usually because a blood vessel bursts or is blocked by a blood clot (thrombosis). This cuts off the supply of oxygen and nutrients, causing damage to the brain tissue resulting in a number of physical symptoms. Disability following a stroke varies greatly depending on factors such as the part of the brain affected, how quickly treatment was given, and the extent of the damage to the brain. A very severe stroke can cause sudden death.

The scale of the problem

Annually, 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke,  of these, 5 million die, making it the second leading cause of death. Of these another 5 million are left permanently disabled, placing a burden on family and community.

The incidence of stroke is declining in many developed countries, largely as a result of better control of high blood pressure, and reduced levels of smoking. However, the absolute number of strokes continues to increase because of the ageing population.

Stroke fact sheet [PDF]