Highlights from ECNP 2021 — Day 3 — October 4th

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 4th, with the ‘Campfire’ and ‘Brainstorming’ sessions including discussions ranging from ImmunoPsychiatry to science communication, and today’s symposia focusing on the latest findings in the neurobiology and therapeutics of depression, how patient ‘life engagement’ is a key goal and how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting healthcare. Here is a summary of today’s (Day 3) highlights from this fascinating, illuminating Monday in Lisbon.

Patient focused goals are key

‘Industry Science Exchanges’ focused on depression and schizophrenia:

  • The latest understanding of major depressive disorder (MDD) neurobiology and how episode duration and disease trajectory can impact a patient with MDD
  • How to best manage a MDD-related psychiatric emergency, focussing on initial assessment and treatment options
  • Drugs targeting the range of schizophrenia symptoms including not only positive ones but also negative, cognitive, mood and hostility aspects
  • Why patient ‘life engagement’ practices are becoming a focus for pharmacological treatment goals
  • Patient reported and patient-centric outcomes as key parts of clinical trials and everyday practice
  • Approaches to precision psychiatry whereby symptoms are matched to biology to provide more tailored therapy

Patient ‘life engagement’ is a key treatment goal


Social media and novel therapies

The ‘Campfire Sessions’ continued, with discussion of:

  • How attachment involves bonding processes that can be shown neurobiologically and are involved in human resilience
  • Science communication and public engagement is booming with formats including traditional books and columns and newer ones, such as podcasts and public-facing lectures
  • Does reporting of ‘celebrity’ suicide still increase the societal rate of such and is it increased or helped by social media

Other interesting presentations included how animal-assisted therapy is becoming a popular and effective treatment for psychiatric and neurological disorders and potential mechanisms behind this; discussion on changing careers from academia to industry; and exploration of gene therapy for rare neurodevelopment disorders and how, once developed, it can best be delivered.

From gene therapy to animal-assisted therapy, new developments are becoming popular and effective for potential treatments

‘Educational Update’ Sessions highlighted price to address withdrawal of antidepressants with regard to controlling symptoms1 and the latest evidence regarding neurobiology of cognitive impairments and how understanding this may aid treatment, with ‘Innovative Format’ sessions including a panel discussion on how publication and outcome reporting bias in psychiatry might hinder drug development, if overestimation of treatment effects occur and, with mindfullness-based interventions for psychiatric disorders on the rise, questions remain regarding efficacy and mechanisms.


Neurobiology may inform therapy choice


Symposia including presentations regarding:

  • How rapid-acting antidepressants may help people with rapid mood switches, with details on neurobiology and pharmacology
  • Using rodent models of social interaction to help explain human social behavior and addiction neurocircuitry
  • The fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic on people living with schizophrenia with regard to health, treatment and care access

The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted access to healthcare

The Brainstorming sessions included:

  • Advances in treatment and psychotherapy combinations for people with MDD and PTSD revealed in clinical trials and neurocircuitry studies2
  • How discrepancy between regulatory indications for psychotropic medications and off-label prescribing may be addressed by identifying trans-diagnostic DSM syndromes and biological circuits3
  • ImmunoPsychiatry, such as using anti-inflammatory agents in psychosis,4 is a growing field but how can it be advanced with regard to research foci?

Brain inflammation is fast becoming a focus of research and treatment

Dr Valery Grinevic’s Plenary Lecture discussed new studies regarding the peptide oxytocin.


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. Horowitz, M. A.; Taylor, D. Tapering of SSRI treatment to mitigate withdrawal symptoms. Lancet Psychiatry 2019, 6, 538-546.

2. Hasler, G. Toward specific ways to combine ketamine and psychotherapy in treating depression. CNS Spectrums 2020, 25, 445-447.

3. Davidson, M.; Gabos-Grecu, C. Do DSM classifications help or hinder
drug development?
. Dialogues Clin Neurosci 2020, 22, 73-79.

4. Jeppesen, R.; Christensen, R. H. B.; Pedersen, E. M. J.; Nordentoft, M.; Hjorthøj, C.; Köhler-Forsberg, O.; Benros, M. E. Efficacy and safety of anti-inflammatory agents in treatment of psychotic disorders – A comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 2020, 90, 364-380.