Following a wait of three years, EAN President, Prof. Claudio Bassetti, was finally able to welcome the neurology community to a face-to-face EAN Annual Congress at the EAN 2022 Opening Session on Saturday evening. Following two virtual congresses in the years since the previous in-person event in Oslo, in 2019, Bassetti made clear his pleasure at being able to convene in Vienna this year, while continuing to offer programme content online for those unable to attend in person, making 2022 the first hybrid EAN congress.
Speaking from the Main Auditorium at the Austria Center Vienna, Bassetti gave a thorough overview of the EAN’s recent endeavours and current direction, detailing the society’s activities under the headings of four strategic priorities: science, education, membership, and advocacy.
The latter received particular emphasis, with Bassetti describing 2022 as a decisive year for neurology and brain health, with the adoption of the Intersectoral Global Action Plan on Epilepsy and Other Neurological Disorders, announced at the 75th World Health Assembly, and the emergence of neurology as a public health priority. A short video clip, introduced by Bassetti, of numerous figures from the field of neurology and global health, speaking at the EAN Brain Health Summit and other events, demonstrating the weight and unity of opinion from the neurology community behind the overall mission of brain health advocacy, received a rousing round of applause.
Next to the lectern was Luca Cuffaro, chair of the EAN Residents and Research Fellows Section, giving a summary of the section’s status quo and activities during the congress, before handing over to Programme Committee Chair, Prof. Tony Marson to introduce neuroscientist, writer and broadcaster, Baroness Susan Greenfield.
In a thought-provoking talk, titled Where Neuroscience meets neurology: blowing, expanding, and losing the mind, Greenfield explored the overlap between neuroscience research and clinical neurology, delving into some quite philosophical questions about the physical basis of the mind. The message of her lecture hinged on the difference between the two basic modes of the brain: the ‘feeling’ mode, characterised by prefrontal under-function and a higher presence of dopamine; and the ‘thinking’ mode, characterised by prefrontal activation and less dopamine. She raised the concept of a sliding scale of consciousness—likened to the effect of a dimmer switch for an electric light—and the question of a possible physical property of the brain that could correlate with degrees of consciousness.
Greenfield then turned to research conducted by her own lab in the UK, which has been investigating the role of a novel 14 amino acid bioactive peptide (T14) as a potential key driver of neurodegeneration and working on developing it as a pre-symptomatic biomarker.
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Rounding out the Opening Session, Bassetti turned to the EAN´s Honorary Members, introducing the recipients from 2020 (Prof. Charles Warlow) and 2021 (Prof. Günther Deuschl and Prof. Philip Scheltens), to offer them a chance to at last received their award in front of a real-life audience.
Finally, following a warm introduction from Bassetti, this year’s Honorary Member, Prof. Franz Fazekas, EAN Past President and former president of the Austrian Society of Neurology, took to the stage. In an emotional moment, Fazekas’s award was accepted with the assistance of colleague Christian Enzinger, who thanked the EAN Board, the other two presidents (Deuschl and Bassetti) on the stage and, notably, his family, on his behalf.