Tag Archives: Event Report

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: Outreach Event, Strasbourg (16.03.17)

What is Brain Awareness Week?

The global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research

Brain Awareness Week unites the efforts of partner organizations from around the world in a week-long celebration of the brain every March. Partners organize creative and innovative activities in their communities to educate and excite people of all ages about the brain and the promise of brain research.

Brain Awareness Week was founded in 1996 by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. EBC partner, The Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) joined the celebrations in 2006, administering the grants that the Dana Foundation reserves for participating European organisations.

“Now in its 22nd year, Brain Awareness Week continues to flourish because of participation of partners from around the globe, like FENS, and their commitment to educating the public about the importance of brain research and its critical role in helping people lead healthier, more productive lives.” – Edward Rover, Chairman, The Dana Foundation & The European Dana Alliance.

Find out about Brain Awareness Week in France here.

As part of Brain Awareness Week, EBC, in collaboration with The Dana Foundation, The Belgian Brain Council, The European Psychiatric Association (EPA) and The Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS), organized an outreach event at the European Parliament, Strasbourg on 16 March 2017. The title of the event “Expanding Brain Research in Europe:  A societal Need?” was in parallel to the Lunch debate organized in Brussels on 14 March 2017. The goal of the event was to target MEPs and other decision makers interested in the fields of health, research and innovation. The event was hosted by MEP Anne Sander and MEP Momchil Nekov


The event at Strasbourg consisted of three presentations given by guest speakers: Monica DiLuca, Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Milano and Vice President of EBC,  Marion Leboyer, M.D., Ph.D. is currently Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Paris Est (UPEC) in France and Anne Little,  President of The European Federation of Neurological Associations (EFNA) and Executive Director of The International Bureau for Epilepsy.

The event was 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.

The abstracts of each presentation are below:

Monica DiLucaBrain Research in Europe: Our Challenge for the Future

Brain diseases represent a considerable social and economic burden in Europe. With yearly costs of about 800 billion euros and an estimated 179 million people afflicted in 2010, brain diseases are an unquestionable emergency and a grand challenge for neuroscientists. Considering the costs of brain diseases for the European society, and considering that these costs will increase considerably in the coming years due to the ageing European population, one way of curbing this increase and possibly decreasing the costs is via intensified research. Thus, strong basic research in neuroscience and the development of a strong European platform for neuroscience is needed to face brain diseases, which nowadays represent a societal emergency in European countries.


Ann Little— Putting neurology patients at the heart of research

Patients should be involved in helping to shape priorities for research that is ultimately carried out for their benefit. A growing body of evidence suggests that involving patients in research improves the relevance, quality and speed of that research. Furthermore, including patients as top level priorities in order to close the gap between what researchers want to research and what patients want researching is likely to be beneficial for all research.

The Value of Treatment project initiated by the European Brain Council is one excellent example of patient participation in research. The project addresses the burden of disease and the issues in the current healthcare system, and proposes evidence-based and cost-effective solutions to achieve high value for patients. By describing (“mapping”) the patient journey in full detail (by both patients and health care professionals), treatment gaps have been identified which will be addressed in the policy recommendations resulting from this project.

Marion Leboyer— Supporting research in psychiatry in Europe: A major societal issue

Mental disorders represent the single greatest economic and social burden on European society. The cost of mental disorders (excluding dementia and other organic brain disorders) in 2010 was estimated at €461 billion. This is the lowest current estimate for this figure, as it does not take into account the large additional costs associated with having co-occurring mental and physical disorders.

With sufficient investment, mental health research could address the burdens in Europe, especially through research on prevention of mental disorders in young or at-risk populations, on improvement of understanding of causes, on developing new tools for diagnosis and innovative therapeutic strategies, thus promoting positive mental health in the general population. Such approaches have been advocated by the European Parliament and the European Commission, and Prof. Leboyer will outline the most pressing mental health research that takes advantage of Europe’s infrastructure and research strengths, including the EU ROAMER project.

On the evening before the outreach event, 15 March, a networking cocktail reception was also held by EBC member, The European Psychiatric Association (EPA) at their Strasbourg Headquarters.



A video containing the highlights of the event can be found on the EBC Youtube channel, and shared below: