Scientists tackle the brain strain

January 31, 1997

SCIENTISTS from across Europe have announced a collaborative initiative to promote brain research, with mental health problems expected to escalate as we enter the next century.

The European Dana Alliance for the Brain was due to be launched by Colin Blakemore of Oxford University at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this week.

Aiming to raise the profile of brain-related disorders and to ensure adequate funding for brain research in the United Kingdom and abroad, the alliance comprises 62 leading researchers from 19 countries who have signed a declaration of goals for the next decade. These include better approaches to pain relief and drug addiction, identifying genetic causes and predisposition to brain disease and understanding thought, emotion and learning difficulties.

According to Professor Blakemore, by the year 2020 major depression, a genetically influenced condition, will be the second most common illness worldwide, overtaking respiratory problems and measles and only just behind heart disease in casualty terms.

He adds that depression already affects 1 per cent of the population, with brain-related disorders, such as Parkinson's disease and epilepsy, strokes and depression, costing $700 billion per year. "It is the biggest area of cost in medical terms," he said. "In Britain, brain research is suffering particularly with regard to funding."

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