Public Release:  Pan-European organizations call for an advanced understanding of the human brain

A new ESF strategic report identifies the opportunities for research on human brain in all scientific domains

European Science Foundation

Strasbourg-12 December 2012. A new strategic report, The Human Brain - From Cells to Society, Toward Better Mental Health in Europe, has been published today by the European Science Foundation (ESF). In a Europe where an estimated 38% of the population is affected by a disorder of the brain, it is becoming increasingly important to bring greater support to research in all areas of neuroscience.

This interdisciplinary initiative, supported by all scientific committees of ESF and numerous European organisations, presents the current important issues for research on human brain. The publication also highlights five key opportunities for advancing our understanding of the human brain:

1. the development of integrated neuro-psychotherapeutic approaches to the treatment of psychiatric disorders;

2. the development of more valid disease models for research into psychiatric disorders;

3. an improved understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the relationship between biology and environment;

4. more comparative and cross-disciplinary studies to explore how scientific concepts relating to the human brain are received and understood in different sociocultural contexts;

5. research into the legal and ethical implications of recent developments in the brain sciences, including behavioural screening and manipulation, and emerging neurotechnologies.

This initiative brought together experts from an array of scientific disciplines, from philosophy and anthropology through to clinical, cellular and molecular neuroscience to discuss issues at the boundaries between biology and psychosocial interactions.

The aim of the report is to provide a framework for the discussion of future research and practice in light of the changes occurring in our understanding of the human brain. The authors write: "understanding brain function is not only of use to medicine - it is important for all aspects of individual health and wellbeing. Many psychiatric disorders are known to begin during childhood and adolescence, at a time when brain plasticity is also critically important to learning and socialisation, for instance."

The personal and societal burden of disorders in the brain is alarmingly high and still increasing." said Marian Joëls, president of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies. She continued: "In line with the recommendations in the current report, making the next step towards novel treatment strategies requires a joint effort from clinical and basic neuroscientists in coordination with many other neuroscience disciplines. It is however important also to stress that the healthy brain is crucial for so many aspects of our daily life. Capturing the full spectrum of brain function will truly allow us to understand why investing in brain research is such a unique opportunity to improve our overall quality of life."

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The ESF Strategic Report The Human Brain - From Cells to Society Toward Better Mental Health in Europe is available online at www.esf.org/humanbrain.

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