Highlights from ECNP 2021 — Day 2 — October 3rd

Welcome to Progress in Mind’s live coverage of ECNP 2021. This 34th Congress of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology – Lisbon 2021 continued today, October 3rd, with congress attendees getting morning program onsite to be joined by remote attendees online at lunchtime. Today’s presentations ranged from new findings in schizophrenia, depression and Alzheimer’s disease along with how new technologies are helping explain neurobiology in health and disease. Here is a summary of today’s (Day 2) highlights from this interesting, often discussion led Sunday in Lisbon.

Unmet needs in psychiatric conditions

Five satellite symposia included discussion of:

  • In schizophrenia, how tailoring therapeutic choices can help a person toward functional recovery;1 the impact of cognitive impairment and how best to manage it; trace ‘amine-associated receptor 1’ as a therapeutic target; and unmet needs for treatment-resistant schizophrenia
  • How insomnia is linked to several comorbidities and potential new treatments
  • Unmet needs in treatment-resistant depression

There are still many unmet needs in treatment for depression, schizophrenia and insomnia

Five ‘Campfire Sessions’ allowed more intimate discussion on:

  • Aberrant insulin signaling in dementias and psychiatric conditions;2 closing the longevity gap in psychotic disorders; the role of air pollution on cognition, behavior and psychomotor development; a digital tool to help people with regard to PTSD; and whether the ‘hybrid’ conference should be here to stay

The hybrid conference may be here to stay


Talking about COVID-19, in vitro models and new targets in Alzheimer’s disease

Three ‘Brainstorming Sessions’ delivered short presentations followed by longer discussions:

  • There is a striking rate of post-COVID depression;3 discussion was held as to whether this is a distinct entity and what potential treatments are
  • Induced pluripotent stem cell models present a way to model the brain,4 but how much can they reveal the complex interplay that occurs in the Central Nervous System in a psychiatric illness?
  • The amyloid-cascade hypothesis of Alzheimer’s disease etiology may not hold for all cases, with other potential pathogenic pathways and new targets for pharmacotherapy discussed5

There are worrying amounts of new psychiatric conditions, including depression and anxiety, following COVID-19 infection


The latest findings in Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), memory, emotional regulation and pregnancy

Six symposium tackled some key issues in psychiatric conditions:

  • Comorbid ADHD, mood, anxiety, and substance disorders can severely impact quality of life; here, epidemiological findings, common genetic pathways and non-pharmacological therapy clinical trial data on was shared6
  • The latest studies in memory plasticity were utilized to highlight if emerging pharmacotherapy targets could tackle maladaptive behavioral patterns in addiction and stress
  • Also presented was how state-of-the-art technologies can reveal clues to the molecular and cellular stress can have on memory and therapeutic targets
  • Emotional regulation can be particularly difficult in adolescence and how this can be quantified and targeted for treatment was explored7
  • Data from neuroimaging and genomic modalities can be mined using machine and deep learning techniques to provide clues to brain functioning in health and disease
  • An overview was presented of brain changes in pregnancy and the post-partum period along with associations with mood disorders

New technologies are revealing the neurobiology of memory, stress, and pregnancy


Tackling stress

Professor Carmen Sandi’s Plenary Lecture focused on the involvement of mitochondrial function and metabolism in the nucleus accumbens, the brain’s ‘motivational hub,’ which has led to an understanding of stress vulnerability and depression and anxiety comorbidity.8

Dr. Annamaria Cattaneo’s Plenary Lecture examined the circumstances under which early life stress exposure can lead to development of psychiatric disorders and the molecular mechanisms of such.


‘Interactive Format’ sessions gave attendees a chance to hear and chat about peoples’ experiences as researchers and clinicians; gender and diversity issues in brain sciences;9 and digital phenotyping in mental health.

Our correspondent’s highlights from the symposium are meant as a fair representation of the scientific content presented. The views and opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect those of Lundbeck.


1. Gorwood, P.; Bouju, S.; Deal, C.; Gary, C.; Delva, C.; Lancrenon, S.; Llorca, P. M. Predictive factors of functional remission in patients with early to mid-stage schizophrenia treated by long acting antipsychotics and the specific role of clinical remission. Psychiatry Res 2019, 281, 112560.

2. Prevention and Remediation of Insulin Multimorbidity in Europe. https://prime-study.eu/.

3. Taquet, M.; Geddes, J. R.; Husain, M.; Luciano, S.; Harrison, P. J. 6-month neurological and psychiatric outcomes in 236 379 survivors of COVID-19: a retrospective cohort study using electronic health records. Lancet Psychiatry 2021, 8, 416-427.

4. Hartlaub, A. M.; McElroy, C. A.; Maitre, N. L.; Hester, M. E. Modeling Human Brain Circuitry Using Pluripotent Stem Cell Platforms. Frontiers in Pediatrics 2019, 7.

5.  Neff, R. A.; Wang, M.; Vatansever, S.; Guo, L.; Ming, C.; Wang, Q.; Wang, E.; Horgusluoglu-Moloch, E.; Song, W.-m.; Li, A.; Castranio, E. L.; TCW, J.; Ho, L.; Goate, A.; Fossati, V.; Noggle, S.; Gandy, S.; Ehrlich, M. E.; Katsel, P.; Schadt, E.; Cai, D.; Brennand, K. J.; Haroutunian, V.; Zhang, B. Molecular subtyping of Alzheimer’s disease using RNA sequencing data reveals novel mechanisms and targets. Science Advances 2021, 7, eabb5398.

6. Genomic Relationships, Novel Loci, and Pleiotropic Mechanisms across Eight Psychiatric Disorders. Cell 2019, 179, 1469-1482.e1411.

7. Wasserman, D.; Hoven, C. W.; Wasserman, C.; Wall, M.; Eisenberg, R.; Hadlaczky, G.; Kelleher, I.; Sarchiapone, M.; Apter, A.; Balazs, J.; Bobes, J.; Brunner, R.; Corcoran, P.; Cosman, D.; Guillemin, F.; Haring, C.; Iosue, M.; Kaess, M.; Kahn, J. P.; Keeley, H.; Musa, G. J.; Nemes, B.; Postuvan, V.; Saiz, P.; Reiter-Theil, S.; Varnik, A.; Varnik, P.; Carli, V. School-based suicide prevention programmes: the SEYLE cluster-randomised, controlled trial. Lancet 2015, 385, 1536-1544.

8. Gebara, E.; Zanoletti, O.; Ghosal, S.; Grosse, J.; Schneider, B. L.; Knott, G.; Astori, S.; Sandi, C. Mitofusin-2 in the Nucleus Accumbens Regulates Anxiety and Depression-like Behaviors Through Mitochondrial and Neuronal Actions. Biol Psychiatry 2021, 89, 1033-1044.

9. Thibaut, F. The role of sex and gender in neuropsychiatric disorders. Dialogues Clin Neurosci 2016, 18, 351-352.