Speakers' abstracts 17 January 2006

01 Rev Simon House MA

Preconception to late adolescence; key impacts on brain development & function.

The Conference is designed to prioritise practical actions by assembling cutting edge findings. The impact of environment, parental and external, is crucial on sperm & ovum, embryo, and on the brain itself during rapid development. Perinatal experience is also crucial. Nutrition and emotions, at some key stages from preconception to late adolescence, particularly affect brain development and function for life. Our genes have not been fine-tuned for today’s lifestyle, and cannot be.

Europe’s €386bn spent in 2004 on mental problems can be nothing compared to the agonies of individuals and their families, as well as the knock-on effects of violent behaviour, socially and globally. But attention to specific developmental stages is already improving health, intelligence and behaviour. Far more can now be achieved.

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04 Dr Joseph Hibbeln, MD

CLEAVE LECTURE: Nutrition, the brain and mental ill health.
[The impact of deficiencies of omega-3 fats on homicide, suicide and depression and greater risk of developmental trajectories towards lifelong psychopathy.]

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03 Dr Richard Ashcroft PhD Reader

Priorities for brain science; making a difference.

How we ought to prioritise research spending is a difficult problem.  On the one hand, we may wish to target research resources on the problems of most pressing social need, but this may be to pose questions which science is not in a position to answer.  A good example of this approach was President Nixon's "War on Cancer" in the 1970s.  On the other hand, we may wish to target research resources on the problems most interesting or most tractable for scientific reasons, but accept that this might not be to target the most pressing social needs.  The relative spend on non-infectious diseases prevalent in the West over spending on infectious diseases prevalent in the developing world may be an example of this.

Current thinking is that research priorities can be set most fairly not by specifying principles of justice in research spending, but rather by making the decision-making process more open, transparent and perhaps democratic.  This can involve patient or citizen involvement in research programme design or research funding decision-making.  This presentation will describe and analyse the options, and consider how far they are ethically satisfactory.

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05 Dr David Thomas DC

Our changing diet; deficits and disorders.

Over the past 60 years there have been fundamental changes in the quality and quantity of food available to us as a nation. The character, growing method, preparation, source and ultimate presentation of basic ‘staples’ has changed significantly.

Concurrently there has been a definitive trend towards ‘convenience’ foods comprised principally of saturated fats, ‘rendered’ proteins and refined carbohydrates - often devoid of vital micro nutrients, yet ‘packed full of accepted chemical cocktails under the guise of additives, colourings, flavourings and preservatives.

These changes have not been without their consequences to the rising levels of chronic ill health. Ongoing research clearly demonstrates a significant relationship between micro-nutrients’ deficiencies, ill health and mental disorders.

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