Highlights from ECNP 2021 — Day 4 — October 5th

Welcome to Progress in Mind’s live coverage of ECNP 2021. This 34th Congress of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology – Lisbon 2021 ended today, October 5th, with presentations and lively discussion on the importance of early intervention, especially for adolescents; key findings in the neurobiology of and mechanisms behind a number of psychiatric conditions; cannabinoids and serotonin psychedelics as treatment strategies and our latest understandings regarding the etiology and treatment of migraine. Here is a summary of today’s (Day 4) highlights from this the closing day of the conference.

Neurobiology, social media and autism biomarkers

Today’s “Campfire Sessions” discussed:

  • Should adolescents be included in clinical trials for psychoactive medications so as to enhance treatment choice?
  • The evidence behind how COVID-19 is affecting the brain to cause psychiatric illness
  • The ethics of genetic testing for psychiatric conditions and how you discuss it with a patient
  • How autism ‘biomarkers’ may mean treatment options can be tailored to an person’s specific needs1
  • Whether the use of silicon neurons, optimized using large-scale data assimilation,2 will be able to replicate neuronal networks
  • What we know about how the effects of social media on children and adolescent mental health

Genetic testing may aid psychiatric diagnosis but there are issues involved in its use

Today’s Brainstorming sessions highlighted:

  • The debate around how long antipsychotic maintenance should continue, when to try stopping and the paucity of clinical trials regarding this3
  • A need to provide brain imaging strategies that can best be used when investigating the effects of serotonin psychedelics4
  • The potential mechanisms that link insomnia, circadian instability and bipolar disorder5


Novel therapeutic targets and treatments

Symposia included:

  • Discussion of the use of cannabinoid compound in psychiatry, including the current favorite, cannabidiol, and ways to augment endocannabinoid signalling through enzyme manipulation
  • The intersection of irritable bowel syndrome and psychiatric conditions with regard to the gut-brain axis and how this can be used to find new therapeutic options
  • How new understanding of astrocyte physiology and communication with neurons may help guide novel therapeutic strategies
  • Reward-processing deficits can be found in a number of psychiatric conditions and may be the target of novel pharmacotheparies
  • Autism has large neurobiological heterogenity and identification of biomarkers may help stratify subgroups1
  • Early intervention for depression and addiction is key, especially during adolescence; therapies such as neurostimulation and optogenetics may be useful at this time

Astrocytes play a key role in neuronal function

Professor Edward Bullmore’s Plenary Lecture looked at how new understandings of the role of inflammation in depression may help guide the development of new treatments and therapy strategies.

The Brain Prize Plenary Lecture was delivered by Professor Jes Olesen and focussed on his group’s work on the genetics and molecular mechanisms of migraine and how prophylactic treatment is helping people with this sometimes debilitating condition.

Advances in the understanding of migraine can steer novel treatment

Other interesting sessions included the latest developments on music therapy for neuropsychiatric disorders; how best to deliver essential early intervention strategies for young people with obsessive-compulsive disorder; how evidence-based practice needs to be used to help people with ADHD throughout their life; and what we know about ‘Imposter syndrome’.

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. AIMS-2-Trial. https://www.aims-2-trials.eu.

2. Abu-Hassan, K.; Taylor, J. D.; Morris, P. G.; Donati, E.; Bortolotto, Z. A.; Indiveri, G.; Paton, J. F. R.; Nogaret, A. Optimal solid state neurons. Nat Commun 2019, 10, 5309.

3. Ceraso, A.; Lin, J. J.; Schneider-Thoma, J.; Siafis, S.; Tardy, M.; Komossa, K.; Heres, S.; Kissling, W.; Davis, J. M.; Leucht, S. Maintenance treatment with antipsychotic drugs for schizophrenia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2020.

4. Preller, K. H.; Duerler, P.; Burt, J. B.; Ji, J. L.; Adkinson, B.; Stämpfli, P.; Seifritz, E.; Repovš, G.; Krystal, J. H.; Murray, J. D.; Anticevic, A.; Vollenweider, F. X. Psilocybin Induces Time-Dependent Changes in Global Functional Connectivity. Biological Psychiatry 2020, 88, 197-207.

5. McCarthy, M. J. Missing a beat: assessment of circadian rhythm abnormalities in bipolar disorder in the genomic era. Psychiatr Genet 2019, 29, 29-36.