Tag Archives: brain

Registration now open for the EBC Brain Awareness Week event on brain and cancer

Register now to confirm your place in the upcoming EBC Brain Awareness Week event, “Brain and Cancer: exploring the mysteries of their connection”, jointly organized between EBC, Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and European Dana Alliance for the Brain (EDAB), in the European Parliament in Brussels on 18 March. The event is kindly hosted by MEPs Petra de Sutter (Greens, BE) and Tomislav Sokol (EPP, HR). Venue details will follow soon.

In this event we would like to address the close relationships between brain and cancer. The general idea behind the topic is that brain research not only has the fundamentals to understand brain cancer but, even more generally, the burdens of cancer, which have immense implications in mental health and neurological aspects.

The brain is not only the site of many different types of tumours, but with its complexity the brain is guiding all our actions including our reactions to distressful situations. The level of distress ranges from being able to adjust to living with cancer to having a serious mental health problem, such as major depression.

In addition, neurological complications caused by systemic cancers—those arising outside the nervous system—can cause signs and symptoms that are more distressing and disabling than the cancer itself and, if left untreated, can be fatal.

We will tackle cancer from a “brain” perspective, by first discussing how fundamental neuroscience research on development and differentiation can be informative for the genesis of brain tumours but also discussing neurological and psychiatric complication of systemic cancer.

Patient representatives, clinicians, researchers, scientists and other stakeholders will also be invited through the general network of EBC and its partner organisations.

Speakers will include:

1.Dr Laura Andreae (FENS-Kavli Scholar)
2. Kathy Oliver (International Brain Tumour Alliance)
3. Prof. Riccardo Soffietti (European Association of Neuro-oncology and Member of the EAN Scientific Panel on Neuro-Oncology)
4.  Prof. Isabelle Merckaert (Psychosomatic and Psycho-Oncology Research Unit, Université Libre de Bruxelles)

Register through this link

“Time matters: A call to prioritize brain health” report launches

Experts call for coordinated public education and research programmes to avert a brain disease crisis


Experts are calling for a public health campaign aimed at promoting a ‘brain-healthy lifestyle’ to reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

The campaign should support existing health promotion work by emphasising that “what is good for the heart is generally good for the brain,” they urge.

In a report published by the Oxford Health Policy Forum today, they go on to talk about a ‘window of opportunity’ in midlife where individuals may be able to make the biggest difference to their risk of developing neurodegenerative disease or of delaying its progress.

The public education campaign should be underpinned by a coordinated research programme, which is aimed at developing clinical tests for identifying those at risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases ‒ before signs and symptoms appear. Research to develop new treatments and other tests to facilitate earlier diagnosis must also continue, and health systems must prepare now for the time when such tests are available.

“People need to understand the risk factors that can affect their brain health and what can be done to maintain it and to help prevent neurodegenerative diseases,” said neurologist Professor Gavin Giovannoni from Queen Mary University of London and Co-chair of the author group of a new evidence-based report, Time matters: a call to prioritize brain health.

The report summarises published evidence and the consensus findings of an international multidisciplinary expert group, including clinicians, researchers and representatives from patient advocacy and professional groups.

“Deterioration in the structure or function of nerve cells (neurodegeneration) begins many years before any symptoms become obvious. This means that diagnosis often occurs at a relatively late stage in the disease course, when substantial damage to nerve cells has already taken place,” explained Dr Alastair Noyce, from Queen Mary University of London and Co-chair of the author group.

“We conclude that there is a ‘10–20-year window of opportunity’ in midlife during which people can reduce the risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease or delay its progress. We cannot change our genetic make-up, but we can help reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases ourselves by taking exercise, keeping socially active, eating healthily, reducing alcohol intake, stopping smoking and keeping our brains active.”

Neurodegenerative diseases are becoming more common as people live longer, but they are not an inevitable consequence of normal ageing. Worldwide, Alzheimer’s disease affects about 50 million people and Parkinson’s disease affects more than 6.1 million people; these numbers are rising.

“Planning for the healthcare structures of the future has to start now if we’re to avert a crisis,” stressed Professor Giovannoni. “Neurodegenerative diseases pose an enormous socioeconomic and individual burden, and this will continue to grow as the population ages.”

The report sets out a series of consensus recommendations, including:

  • improve public understanding of how to protect brain health through lifestyle measures – such as exercise and a healthy diet
  • prepare for the likely increased demand for genetic testing by those wanting to understand their risk of a neurodegenerative disease
  • provide access to available and effective treatments in a timely manner
  • provide accessible holistic care, including prevention information, treatment options and support
  • conduct research to identify accurate and cost-effective tests for disease detection and diagnosis
  • develop, validate and approve tests, tools and apps for monitoring brain health.

Several professional associations and advocacy groups – including European Brain Council, Alzheimer’s Research UK, Parkinson’s UK and European Parkinson’s Disease Association – have endorsed the recommendations

Welcoming the report, Dr Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Evidence shows that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain, but this message is yet to hit home with the public. Only a third of people think it’s possible to reduce their risk of dementia, and we must do more to empower people with knowledge about the actions they could take to protect their brain health. Alzheimer’s Research UK wholeheartedly supports the timely and important recommendations of this report.”

Representing the European Brain Council, Professor Monica Di Luca echoed the need for action and collaboration: “The European Brain Council has for years been highlighting the importance and cost of brain diseases. This report strengthens the case for governments to prioritise brain health and to prepare for the challenges that healthcare systems will face as the burden of brain disease continues to increase.”

Time matters: a call to prioritize brain health was launched at the European Health Forum Gastein conference (the ‘Davos’ for Public Health) on Thursday 3 October.

Read the full report HERE.


Notes to editor

Lead author and Chair, Professor Gavin Giovannoni, and other members of the author group are available for interview.

Professor Gavin Giovannoni is centre lead for neuroscience and trauma at the Blizard Institute, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London.

Professor Philip Scheltens, a leading expert in Alzheimer’s disease and Co-chair of the report, is based at the Alzheimer Center Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Medical Centers, Netherlands.

Author and Co-chair of the report, Dr Alastair Noyce, is a Clinical Senior Lecturer, at Queen Mary University of London and a Neurology Registrar at Barts. His main research interests are in the area of Parkinson’s disease.

Time matters: a call to prioritize brain is published by Oxford Health Policy Forum CIC, a not-for-profit community interest company registered in England and Wales (Registration number: 10475240).

A full copy of the report is available at www.oxfordhealthpolicyforum.org

Preparation of the report was funded by educational grants from Biogen and F. Hoffmann-La Roche, who had no influence on the content.


About neurodegenerative diseases

Neurodegeneration is a consequence of disease-related processes in the brain that result in a loss of function of the nervous system.1 Neurodegenerative diseases are long-term progressive conditions that cause a decline in brain health and result in premature age. Age is the strongest risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases,2 and these diseases are becoming more common as people are living longer.

The two most common neurodegenerative diseases are Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Some, but not all, neurodegenerative diseases are causes of dementia. Dementia is the fifth highest cause of death and the number of global deaths is predicted to double over the next 20 years.3

The financial cost of neurodegenerative disease to society is considerable, both in terms of direct (e.g. medical) and indirect (e.g. sick leave) healthcare costs and in the significant loss of workforce hours. The global costs of dementia have increased from US$604 billion in 2010 to US$818 billion in 2015.3,4 The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that, by 2030, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will be responsible for 1.2% of the total deterioration in health-related quality of life.5

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common neurodegenerative disease and the most common cause of dementia.6 It involves the progressive loss of specialised cells in the brain (neurons) that affect behaviour, memory and cognition, which significantly and progressively impacts a person’s ability to maintain the activities of daily living.7,8 More than 520,000 people in the UK have dementia caused by AD; worldwide, AD affects about 50 million people.7,8

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is caused when brain cells stop producing ‘dopamine’, a chemical that controls movement.9 Symptoms can include an altered way of walking, a stooped posture, tremors and small handwriting.9 In the later stages it is characterised by balance problems which often result in falls. The number of people diagnosed with PD in the UK is around 145,000; worldwide, PD affects more than 6 million people.10


  1. Mattson MP, Magnus T. Ageing and neuronal vulnerability. Nat Rev Neurosci 2006;7:278–94.
  2. Livingston G, Sommerlad A, Orgeta V et al. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care. Lancet 2017;390:2673–734.
  3. Prince M, Wimo A, Guerchet M et al. World Alzheimer report 2015: the global impact of dementia, 2015. Available from: https://www.alz.co.uk/research/world-report-2015 (Accessed 15 January 2019).
  4. Wimo A, Guerchet M, Ali GC et al. The worldwide costs of dementia 2015 and comparisons with 2010. Alzheimers Dement 2017;13:1–7.
  5. World Health Organization. Neurological Disorders. Public health challenges Switzerland: WHO, 2006. Available from: https://www.who.int/mental_health/neurology/neurological_disorders_report_web.pdf (Accessed 15 January 2019).
  6. Cummings JL, Cole G. Alzheimer disease. JAMA 2002;287:2335–8.
  7. World Health Organization. Dementia fact sheet, 2017. Available from: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia (Accessed 6 February 2019).
  8. Alzheimer’s Research UK. Dementia Attitudes Monitor – Wave 1 Report 2018, 2019. Available from: https://www.dementiastatistics.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Dementia-Attitudes-Monitor-Wave-1-Report.pdf (Accessed 6 February 2019).
  9. Sveinbjornsdottir S. The clinical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. J Neurochem 2016;139:318–24.
  10. Dorsey ER, Elbaz A, Nichols E et al. Global, regional, and national burden of Parkinson’s disease, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the global burden of disease study 2016. Lancet Neurol 2018;17:939–53.


Media relations

Chris Mahony, Interim Faculty Communications Executive (Medicine and Dentistry)

Marketing and Communications Department, Queen Mary University of London

T: 0207 8825315

E: c.mahony@qmul.ac.uk

New Brain, Mind and Pain Book of Evidence released for the 2019-2024 EU mandate

The Brain, Mind and Pain (BMP) initiative has today launched its Book of Evidence for the 2019-2024 EU mandate.

This Book of Evidence (BoE) sets a strategic vision on policy action to deliver better care for people with neurological and chronic pain disorders in the EU. It will be used as the core policy document of the MEP Interest Group on Brain, Mind & Pain – which will continue after the upcoming EU elections for the next 5 year mandate.

The Interest Group is coordinated by European Federation of Neurological Associations (EFNA) and Pain Alliance Europe (PAE).

The BoE outlines clear focus areas and proposes recommendations for policy actions, which, if implemented, would significantly improve quality of life for people with neurological and chronic pain disorders, as well as their families and carers.

The development of the document was led by EFNA and PAE and involved a wide range of key EU and national stakeholders from the patient, policy, industry and scientific communities.

This collaborative development process is reflected in wide ranging endorsements and support from organisations such as the European CommissionEuropean Brain CouncilEuropean Patients’ ForumEuropean Academy of NeurologyEuropean Pain Federation and European Alliance for Patient Access.

On today’s publication of the BoE, the European Brain Council President, Prof. Monica Di Luca, says: “As supporters of the Interest Group on Brain, Mind and Pain over the last years, EBC is pleased to share this brand new Book of Evidence for the 2019-2024 EU Mandate and congratulates EFNA and PAE on this fantastic and important piece of work. With over 220 million people in the EU living with neurological conditions and over 150 million with chronic pain, we hope that this Book of Evidence will inspire policymakers and stand as a guide for policies and support in addressing the key challenges of stigma, access to treatment and support, as well as patient empowerment, involvement, and engagement.”.

Read the BoE online now: here


Key areas for action

The BoE outlines the thematic areas of focus for the MEP Interest Group on Brain, Mind and Pain for the 2019-2024 mandate. These are:

» Eradicate stigma, isolation and discrimination: A lack of public awareness of BMP disorders feeds their stigma and the associated isolation and discrimination suffered by BMP patients, carers, and their families

» Ensure equitable access to treatment, services, and support: Access to treatment, services, and support is a topic of concern for patients in Europe due to high failure rates, delays in market access, relatively expensive treatments, and inequality in access across, but also within, EU Member States

» Promote patient empowerment for increased involvement and engagement: Patient empowerment is a means for more effective BMP patient engagement and meaningful involvement in the research, medical and policy conversations which affect them

These areas have been chosen in order to support the MEP Interest Group in leveraging current policy opportunities on the agenda whilst ensuring continuity with the past activities and successes of the BMP initiative.

Driving policy change

The 2019-2024 mandate brings with it an active policy environment at EU level, with numerous opportunities for advocacy on behalf of people with brain, mind and pain disorders.

Ensuring that the Interest Group is capable of impacting policy discussions throughout the 2019-2024 mandate will be key in making progress in the three key thematic areas identified.

Additionally, with the global priority turning more and more towards NCDs, we need to ensure that brain, mind and pain disorders are part of global health policy agenda.

To this end, each chapter of the BoE contains a section on the policy opportunities and subsequent actions that can be leveraged to further progress in each thematic area and at EU and global level.

Looking ahead

It is now the responsibility of the Interest Group and the wider BMP initiative to leverage the policy opportunities and pursue the policy actions identified in this text throughout the 2019-2024 mandate.

EFNA President, Joke Jaarsma says: ‘Progress is contingent on coordinated policy advocacy at EU and global level, taken forward by the BMP initiative as a whole and its partners.

‘Using the BoE as a springboard for action, let’s drive policy change and make a real difference to the daily lives of people living with BMP disorders across Europe!’ she continued.

For any further information on the BoE or the activities of the BMP initiative – including its MEP Interest Group – please do not hesitate to contact EFNA at: advocacy@efna.net


EBC holds Brain Awareness Week event on “Mood and Food: Exploring the gut-brain connection”

Though Brain Awareness Week is still approaching, held next week on March 11-15, the European Brain Council held its annual event early this year, ensuring access to the European Parliament in Brussels and an audience of policymakers and the general public.

This year, the event focused on “Mood and Food: Exploring the gut-brain connection”, examining the connection between mood and food, exploring the relationship between what you eat and how it can affect your mood and daily function.

Host MEP Marian Harkin welcomes the room

Our host, MEP Marian Harkin (ALDE, IE) opened the event with a warm welcome and supportive words for the work of EBC  and like-minded organisations, having hosted a few brain-related events in the European Parliament that day and throughout the week in light of Brain Awareness Week next week, as well as support for the work being done to raise awareness on the subject of brain disorders and brain research.

“I think when we speak about research, sometimes it can be quite narrowly focused or maybe on a particular disease, but the research in this field [gut-brain axis] affects every single one of us here, our families, our communities, in fact, every citizen in the European Union.” Ms Harkin stated, continuing with sharing her own personal interest in the field of research.

“As we are in the European Parliament, it is important also to mention the role that Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe funds can play in prioritizing brain research.”

MEP Jose Inacio Faria (EPP, PT) also joined us for the event, adding that he, too, has an interest in the field and learning more from the speakers. “I always say: what we can spend on prevention we can save on treatment and also ensure healthier citizens.”

EBC Vice-President, Prof. Patrice Boyer, echoed Ms Harkin’s welcome on behalf of EBC and spoke a few words on the current work of EBC and the importance of such awareness raising events. He also alerted the room to the official launch of the EBC Election Manifesto, which was first available that evening and the continued dissemination of the Brain Mission call for Horizon Europe.

Our first speaker was Alejandro Arias Vasquez,  who leads a research group that aims to identify the biological mechanisms underlying the way the brain functions in health and disease, with strong emphasis on neurodevelopmental disorders at Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands. Alejandro spoke on the role gut bacteria can play in the risk of psychiatric diseases and described the results of some of the studies he is carrying out to investigate this. He is the coordinator of the H2020 Eat2beNICE consortium on the effects of nutrition and lifestyle on impulsive, compulsive and externalizing behaviours.

Alejandro Arias speaks on his current research on biological mechanisms underlying the way the brain functions in health and disease

“The project I’m involved in is trying to determine, scientifically – with robust evidence – which type of dietary interventions affect your brain. We’re working towards identifying how, for example, restriction-elimination diets work for ADHD, how the Mediterranean diet works for cognitive performance in people 55 years plus, how probiotics affect the risk of aggressive behaviour in adolescents or how nutritional supplements can help people with impulse control problems. These are all very relevant societal problems. And there’s already some interesting data; already testing if you should eat rice, or potatoes, or greens, or maybe reds? The data is out there. We’re still not completely there in order to answer clinically, but the progress is amazing.”


Kimberley Wilson wants to encourage the general public to improve understanding of their own brain and how their lifestyles play a role in their brain health



Our second speaker, Kimberley Wilson, is a nutrition trained Chartered Psychologist, specialising in Whole Body Mental Health.  Kimberley spoke on the need for increased public engagement  in the field of nutrition, wellbeing and how they affect our brain and minds, as well as how we translate research to clinical practice.

“We really need to start getting people thinking about their brains much earlier in life. We need to start engaging younger people in thinking about their brains. It’s not about flat abs, it’s about strong minds. In essence, somehow, we need to make the brain more ‘sexy’. My personal campaign is to engage people with good quality research and to empower people to use their lifestyle factors to improve their brain health.”

Her clinical work looks at the role nutrition and lifestyle play in our mental health, including disordered eating, functional disorders of the gut-brain axis (IBS) and our emotional relationships with food. Her private clinic, Monumental Health, integrates psychological therapy with evidence-based nutrition and lifestyle advice to effectively treat mental health concerns.

It was clear the audience was up for a discussion, with many questions being fielded to the two speakers after both had spoken, with the conversation being led by Prof. Boyer.

Thank you to all who attended the event and to our partners in organization, the European Dana Alliance for the Brain. For further information on the event, please contact Stephanie Kramer (projects@braincouncil.eu)




Brain Awareness Week 2018: Expanding brain research in Europe – Education, Behaviour and Brain Development

On 15 March 2018, EBC will once again hold an event at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the occasion of Brain Awareness Week 2018. Based on our highly successful outreach event at the Parliament last year, which included a good showing of policymakers, researchers and the general public who openly interacted with each other and the speakers during the hour of open discussion following the presentations, we will bring a similar event to Strasbourg once again.

This event is organised in cooperation with the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS), the European Dana Alliance for the Brain (EDAB), the Belgian Brain Council (BBC), with support from Neuropôle de Strasbourg and Le Bureau Europe Grand Est.

Co-hosted by MEPs Anne Sander (France, EPP), Daciana Sârbu (Romania, S&D) and Lieve Wierinck (Belgium, ALDE), the event will focus on the continued need for expansion of brain research in Europe, this time with specific focus on education, behaviour and brain development. The speakers list consists of highly-lauded scientists from the various fields of expertise: Prof. Albert Gjedde –  University of Copenhagen, Prof. Steven Laureys – University of Liège and Prof. Gaia Novarino – FENS Kavli Scholar, Institute of Science and Technology Austria.

Please see the Save the Date below for further information, and CLICK HERE TO REGISTER NOW!

The event will take place in the European Parliament, Room LOW N3.3 from 10:00-12:00.


BAW 2018 Invitation – FINAL






















Brain Awareness Week 2018 (12-18 March)

Brain Awareness Week is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research organised
by the Dana Foundation. Every March, partner organizations worldwide work together to celebrate the brain for people of all ages. Past activities have included open days at neuroscience labs, exhibitions about the brain, lectures on brain-related topics, social media campaigns, displays at libraries and community centers, and classroom workshops – to name a few.

In 2017, EBC held two Brain Awareness Week events: a lunch debate at the University Foundation in Brussels followed by an outreach event at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Both events were highly successful, with a good showing of policymakers, researchers and the general public who openly interacted with each other and the speakers during the hour of open discussion following the presentations.

EBC, thus, looks forward to repeating the outreach event at the European Parliament, Strasbourg, again in 2018. Read more about the event HERE.


The Value of Early Intervention in Brain, Mind and Pain Conditions event – 12 July 2017

On 12 July 2017, the meeting of the MEP Interest Group on Brain, Mind and Pain, and the Interest Group on Mental Health, Well-being and Brain Disorders took place in the European Parliament (Brussels) in partnership with EBC. The event was hosted by MEPs Jana Žitňanská, Marian Harkin, Michał Boni and Marek Plura.

The well-attended and fruitful event was held under the title “The Value of Early Intervention in Brain, Mind and Pain Conditions”,  and included two panel discussions:

The first panel addressed the conclusions and recommendations of EBC’s Value of Treatment research project and White Paper, and explored the value of early intervention, using the case-studies of four disorders – presented from various stakeholder perspectives –and how the EU can support the solutions identified. The panel, led by Paul Arteel (GAMIAN-Europe), included presentations from the Stroke (An epidemiologist and neurologist’s perspective – Dr. Alistair Webb, UK), Multiple Sclerosis (A public health and policy’s perspective – Ms. Vinciane Quoidbach, Belgium), RLS (A patient’s perspective – Ms. Joke Jaarsma, Netherlands) and Schizophrenia (Families’ perspectives – Ms. Aagje Ieven, EUFAMI, Belgium) working groups.

The second panel, chaired by Ann Little, President of the European Federation of Neurological Associations (EFNA), focused on the possible next steps in the Value of Treatment project – exploring the application of the developed methodology to other disease areas e.g. rare diseases or chronic pain, as well as a future focus on interventions such as rehabilitation.

MEP Michał Boni began the discussion by discussing a move and need towards Integrated Care, and Ms Vinciane Quoidbach, Public Health Policy, Research Project Manager Value of Treatment Research Project at EBC presented the Value Proposition of a second VoT project.

The panel then continued into a discussion on potential case studies, addressing unmet needs, with presentations on rare diseases (such as Ataxia): A neurologist’s perspective – Prof. Paola Giunti, UK, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis: A patient perspective – Nancy van Hoylandt, Belgium and Chronic Pain: A researcher’s perspective – Dr. Nick Guldemond, University of Rotterdam.

Before the panels concluded with a Q&A from the audience, Guest speaker Stephane Hogan, Head of Neuroscience, DG Research & Innovation gave his report on the work of the Commission and the continued support and dedication to brain research.

MEP Interest Groups Meeting on Optimizing the European Social Pillar (08.03.17)

On March 8th, 2017 EBC attended the joint meeting of the MEP Interest Group on Brain, Mind and Pain and the Interest Group on Mental Health, Wellbeing and Brain Disorders, hosted by MEP Marian Harkin, held at the European Parliament in Brussels. The topic of the meeting was how to optimize the European social pillar in order to #MakeWorkWork for those affected by brain, mind and pain conditions.


Joop van Griensven (Pain Alliance Europe) welcomed participants and thanked all those involved with obtaining signatures for the Written Declaration on Access to Employment for those affected by neurological disorders and chronic pain conditions. Some 180 signatures were gathered, and while this is not enough for adoption of the Declaration by the European Parliament, this result is positive nevertheless. The work will continue as the Written Declaration will now become a Call to Action (#makeworkwork).

Raquel Cortés Herrera (European Commission, DG EMPL) who presented the rationale and content of the Social Pillar. As the Pillar is in the process of being adopted, it is not possible to prejudge the final content and format, but Raquel Cortés did underline the current Commission’s commitment towards social policy, with the Social Pillar being the most prominent example of this commitment. It will determine the current Commission’s mandate and activity in the social arena.

The structure of the Pillar is based on a thematic approach, set out in three main chapters:

  1. Equal opportunities and access to the labour market: This includes skills development, life-long learning and active support for employment.
  2. Fair working conditions: Needed to establish an adequate and reliable balance of rights and obligations between workers and employers.
  3. Adequate and sustainable social protection: This includes access to health, social protection benefits and high quality services, including childcare, healthcare and long-term care, which are essential to ensure a dignified living and protection against life’s risks.


Donna Walsh (European Federation of Neurological Associations) then spoke. She briefly introduced the focus areas of the MEP Interest Group on the Brain, Mind and Pain, i.e. stigma, quality of life (employment, education), patient involvement and research. EFNA has submitted a joint response with Pain Alliance Europe to the Social Pillar consultation. EU social legislation is central to employment and educational opportunities for those affected by brain, mind and pain disorders. She underlined that health at work is not just a socio-economic issue. In order to avail of the opportunities to access employment that the European Social Pillar could provide, people living with brain, mind and pain disorders need early and accurate diagnosis as well as appropriate treatment and management. Big health inequalities persist across the EU; for instance, two thirds of people with brain disorders receive no treatment and 40% of people with chronic pain report that it is not adequately controlled. Therefore, the EU and its Member States must acknowledge that accurate, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment/management are necessary to enable those with chronic conditions to optimize the social acquis covered by the European Social Pillar.

The next panelist, Andreea Antonovici (European Multiple Sclerosis Platform), briefly introduced her organisation and its work in relation to employment, such as a Call to Action on Access to Employment for People with MS was launched in 2015, supported by over 70 MEPs and the ‘Believe and Achieve’: a paid internship programme aimed to create opportunities for young people with multiple sclerosis to develop their professional skills through partnerships with businesses across Europe. In relation to the Social Pillar, EMSP has submitted a response which focuses on the need to tackle inequalities and make the necessary changes to make sure EU legislation is being applied at national level in order to put an end to discrimination. EMSP pledges for the empowerment of people with disabilities as they need to have access to the right tools and information in order to stand up for their rights. As already underlined by Donna Walsh, because there is no common definition of disability, accepted and implemented in all Member States, determining eligibility for income maintenance is still difficult. This leads to employers finding gaps in the law and patients being discriminated.

The final panelist was Katie Gallagher (European Patients’ Forum), who briefly introduced her organisation and its mission. EPF’s vision is that all patients in the EU should have equitable access to high-quality, patient-centered health and social care. One of the most pressing and social priorities is the need to develop a supportive working environment for patients. Patients can face stigma or discrimination at work at various stages which prevents them from entering/remaining in the labour market. Ensuring that workplaces offer support for patients is crucial to achieve Europe2020’s goal of “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”

The final speaker, Sam Kynman (European Pain Federation EFIC) gave a brief presentation of his organisation’s campaigning and advocacy work to raise awareness of the personal and societal impact of pain. EFIC will organise a large symposium during the Maltese EU Presidency (where the Maltese President will speak), as a direct result of advocacy efforts. The Italian Presidency (2014) also paid attention to pain and its impact and EFIC will concentrate on the Estonian Presidency next. These are small but necessary steps which will create the required momentum at some point – someday pain may be used as an indicator for health policies across the EU.

In conclusion, Nessa Childers MEP (left) called on participants to keep on raising their voices and stimulating awareness as many of the health conditions that have an impact are still not visible enough. We need to work together as the more these topics are spoken about the more impact they will have.

Marian Harkin MEP closed the meeting with two messages: the first related to the importance of connections, i.e. MEPs feeding all comments on the Social Pillar presented today into the system that would eventually produce a Social Pillar, connecting to the right people to put the messages across (like in the Maltese example) and connecting the important work of OSHA to the work done by the NGOs, which is a two-way process. The second related to the fact that it is the responsibility of us all to ensure a social Europe in the future, where the voice of citizens counts.

 To read the full report written by Brain, Mind, Pain click here.



Launch of EBC Consensus Statement to expand brain research

The European Brain Council (EBC) launched on 18 March a Consensus Statement meant to improve collaboration in the field of European brain research.

The document is titled “The need to expand Brain Research in Europe” and can be viewed here.

ebc consensus statement

In promoting brain health in Europe, EBC recognises the vital need to create a body of evidence supporting our call to give the brain a higher priority as well as to provide policy makers with the state-of-the-art knowledge concerning key needs in the field of brain research. EBC’s Consensus Statement is answering to this.

The Consensus Statement, prepared by EBC together with its members and partners and in collaboration with over 100 European scientists and patient representatives, presents proposals for future research programmes and describes the needs and achievements of research in Europe.

“We need support from policymakers” 

As EBC’s Vice-President Monica Di Luca mentioned during the launch event, the “Statement presents achievements and challenges of brain research and calls for urgent action and targeted support from policymakers.”

Find Monica Di Luca’s presentation here.

“No neurons, no hope”

Neurologist Gustave Moonen, representing EBC’s Member the European Academy of Neurology (EAN),  stressed the importance of science in treating brain disorders:

“Once there are no neurons left, there is no hope. You have to treat patients before they lose their neurons and synapses.  If we can fly to the moon then we can cure brain disorders.”

Prof. Moonen also added that “the brain is too precious to be involved in political games and squabbles with national structures for funding.”

Find his presentation here.

Horizon 2020

Catherine Berens, representative of the Directorate General Research & Innovation of the European Commission, explained how the Horizon 2020 EU funding framework will help brain research:

“While there is no specific bullet point on the brain, this programme provides many opportunities for brain research because it allows researchers to identify commonalities between disease areas.”

Find her presentation here.

horizon 2020

Call to Action for Brain Disorders 

There was a general consensus among the participants that brain research should not become a topic of political games, but be awarded the proper support from decision-makers both at EU and national level.

One way of doing that – as EBC and its partners suggest in our recent Call to Action – is to create European and national brain plans to ensure better management of brain disorders.


This Consensus Document also points to the need for robust basic research in neuroscience and the development of a strong European platform for brain research which is needed to address brain diseases, a societal emergency in European countries.

The current paper is an update to the 2006 and 2011 Consensus Documents, reflecting changes in research priorities and advances in brain research that have taken place in the last few years. In particular, this most recent update formulates proposals for brain research ranging from consciousness to computational neuroscience.