Scientific Programme Highlights

Browse a collection of highlights from the EPA 2020 scientific programme, selected and presented by EPA president Prof. Philip Gorwood.


Cognitive Impairment Across the Schizophrenia Spectrum: Focus on Assessment and Treatment

The impact of cognitive and social cognitive impairment on real-life functioning in subjects with schizophrenia

Presenter: Gabriele Sachs, Austria

Cognitive impairment is present from the first manifestations of schizophrenia and has a significant impact on functional outcome. While progress in psychopharmacology has clearly changed the course of the disease, antipsychotic therapy has poor efficacy on cognitive functions. This symposium, proposed by Professor Sachs from Medical University of Vienna, will help clinicians to know (1) the exact role of cognitions in the global outcome of schizophrenia, (2) to what extent they explain everyday functioning, and (3) what the different possibilities are for improving them.


Transdiagnostic Perspective of ADHD Among Different Mental Disorders

Investigating the effects of physical activity on positive and negative affect in the everyday life of patients with ADHD – A mobile health approach

Presenter: Elena D. Koch, Germany

Physical activity is beneficial for both physical and mental health, and all clinicians should promote its benefits to patients with mental health problems. How can we best deliver such a message to be understood by patients? And what is the evidence that physical activity has quick, short term benefits, as well as long term positive influence on the broad and unclear concept of “global outcome”? Dr. Koch, from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, will demonstrate that on healthy subjects, such as in patients with ADHD, physical activity increases positive effect and decreases negative affect in the short term, using an Ambulatory Assessment approach.

This symposium will be very helpful for clinicians, enriching our arguments to promote physical exercise, having more rational arguments to use!


Understanding the Variation of the Human Brain: Genes, Sex, Environment and Psychopathology

Does Fetal Testosterone Differently Influence Male and Female Brain Development?

Presenter: Amber N. Ruigrok, United Kingdom

The role of fetal testosterone in sexual differences, and associated gray matter specificities, are usually assessed in the fetus and newborn but rarely later in children and adolescents, and rely on thickness only, although surface area is also an important aspect of brain development. Dr. Ruigrok et al. were able to test thickness and surface area in the male and female fetus, but also in children and adolescent brains, being able to attribute specificities to gender. Interestingly, they detected that with higher fetal testosterone, more gray matter volume in right temporal parietal junction are observed, but less gray matter in the planum temporal/parietal operculum. An important symposium that will reshuffle the cards for the role of gender in brain development!

Linking Neurobiological Variation in a Population Based Cohort to the Genetic Risk and Longitudinal Severity of Depression

Presenter: Heather C. Whalley, United Kingdom

Thanks to large worldwide consortia, genetic scores of depression are now powerful enough (explaining around 20% of the disorder) to test which aspects of depression are stable, and which structural specificities of the brain could account for their outcome. This is the topic of the symposium proposed by Dr. Whalley, from the University of Edinburgh, who will show, for example, that some genetically related traits are more stable, such as sleep problems, smoking status, pain, stressful life experiences, and subjective ratings of physical health. As higher genetic scores are correlated with lower white matter microstructural integrity, the insight given by these genetic analyses will be very important to share with all clinicians taking care of patients with depressive episodes and disorders.

ECNP Symposium Hosted by the EPA:

Transdiagnostic Approaches in Neuropsychiatry

Diagnosis in psychiatry, in contrast to most of medicine, remains restricted to subjective symptoms and observable signs. While these diagnostic categories, such as Schizophrenia and Major Depression, are sufficient in order to provide the basis for general clinical care management, they do not describe the underlying neurobiology that gives rise to individual symptoms.

The ability to precisely link these symptoms to underlying neurobiology would not only facilitate the development of better treatments, it would also allow physicians to provide patients with a better understanding of the complexities and management of their illness.

To realise this ambition, a paradigm shift is needed to raise awareness and to build an understanding of how neuropsychiatric diagnoses can be based on quantitative biological parameters.

This symposium will discuss phenotypic variation, trans-diagnostic and quantitative biological approaches to the understanding and classification of neuropsychiatric diseases, to eventually accelerate the discovery and development of better treatments for patients.


Psychopathology 2020: The Heritage of Karl Jaspers

Presenter: Prof. Mario Maj, Italy

Trying to bridge the classical descriptions of psychopathological concepts in psychiatry and the new insights offered by scientific findings is always delicate for clinicians.

EPA 2020 plenary session speaker Prof. Mario Maj will take on this challenge, demonstrating the consistency of the heritage of Karl Jaspers. Prof. Maj will discuss the Jaspers concepts of “delusional atmosphere” and its similarity to the modern concept of “salience disorder”, the feeling described by Jaspers that there is “something suspicious afoot”, which could point to “abnormal dopamine firing”.

Prof. Maj’s discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of such connections, by looking back and into the future, will result in a fascinating plenary session that should not be missed.


The Stepchild of Medicine: Psychiatry’s Notorious Past and Bright Future

Presenter: Prof. Jeffrey A. Lieberman, USA

At EPA 2020 in Madrid, you will have the fantastic opportunity to hear from Prof. Jeffrey Lieberman, one of the most eminent specialists on schizophrenia in the world. Prof. Lieberman will describe psychiatry as the “stepchild of medicine” and give a refreshing description of our specialty as having a notorious past and bright future.


Best of 2019: Research that Advanced Psychiatry and Changed Our Practice

A new, dynamic format based on the concept of Pecha Kucha.

Focusing on the essentials of last year’s advances in their respective fields, 3 internationally recognised experts will present 5 papers that changed their practice.

With 3 slides per paper explaining the alterations they made based on this research. You will gain practical tips and knowledge that will impact your own practice.

The confirmed topics include:

  • Schizophreniform Disorders
  • Mood Disorders
  • Anxiety Disorders