Press Release

The brain challenge: Advancing research and healthcare

Irish Presidency and European Commission call for European-wide focus on brain disorders

A joint conference, Healthy Brain: Healthy Europe – A new horizon for brain research and healthcare, will encourage EU Member States and associated countries to develop complementary strategies to help combat brain disorders.

The conference will be held on 27-28 May in the Convention Centre Dublin (CCD), and is being jointly organised by the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission.

More than 700,000 Irish people currently live with brain disorders and one in three Europeans (165 million people) is likely to be affected by them in their lifetime. They span more than 200 conditions, from neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, right across the spectrum to acquired brain injury and mental health. In 2010, the estimated cost of treating brain disorders in Europe was almost €800 billion*.

The Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly, emphasised the importance of keeping our brains healthy. He continued “the challenge of diagnosing, treating and caring for those affected by brain disorders is daunting. No European country alone has the expertise, or resources, necessary to tackle all of the big questions in this field. We are making progress, but by working together we can do even more. By jointly hosting this conference the European Commission and the Irish Presidency want to promote the development of coordinated strategies to tackle brain research and healthcare across Europe’.

Máire Geoghegan Quinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science said, “Human beings have always wanted to explore the unknown and the human brain presents one of the greatest challenges yet. While significant progress has been made; we still know very little about the human brain. It is only by understanding the full impact of brain disorders at a personal, societal and economic level that we begin to see how vital it is to do something about them.

“Perhaps the most ambitious undertaking in this area so far is Europe’s Human Brain project. With an investment of €1 billion over the next ten years, we hope to reconstruct the brain through super-computer based models and simulations – not only to apply this knowledge to help protect brain health and improve patient care, but also to develop ground-breaking new technologies in computers and robotics”.

Patrick Kennedy, former member of Congress and co-founder of the US non-profit organisation One Mind for Research will deliver the keynote address at the conference: A new horizon for brain research and healthcare. He is well positioned to do so. From a personal perspective, he has openly struggled with depression and bi-polar disorder. From a policy perspective, he co-authored and was lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act in the US which provided tens of millions of Americans who were previously denied care with access to mental health treatment.


Note for editors

*Source – Olesen et al (2012) European Journal of Neurology 2012, 19: 155–162

The Healthy Brain: Healthy Europe conference takes place in the Convention Centre Dublin from 27-28 May 2013.

It is the concluding event of the European Month of the Brain, an initiative to showcase achievements in brain research to date, raise awareness of brain disorders and encourage EU countries to coordinate and optimise resources allocated to brain research and healthcare.

Policy makers, patient organisations, industry, regulators, research funders and health professionals will come together to produce recommendations for action on brain research and healthcare throughout Europe.

One Mind for Research is a new-model, non-profit organization in the US dedicated to tackling brain disorders and eliminating stigma associated with mental illness and brain injury.