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Targeting Hippocampal Circuit Dysfunction in the Neurodevelopmental Trajectory of Psychosis

Our latest blog post is from Sam Knight who talks about his recent experience of presenting a poster at an international conference. Sam is carrying out his PhD research at Kings College, London titled Neural Mechanisms of Positive Symptoms in First-Episode and Prodromal Psychosis.

In mid-October 2022 I was fortunate to receive support from Mental Health Research UK to attend and present at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) congress in Vienna. ECNP is a coming together of several thousand psychiatrists, neuroscientists, and other scientists, to discuss the latest research in the science of brain disorders and how they may be treated. My particular focus is on psychosis: I am now entering the third year of my John Grace PhD Scholarship funded by Mental Health Research UK studying the neural mechanisms of early psychosis and those at highest risk of developing psychosis.

After the last couple of years attending talks online, it is something special to be able to attend in person; something many speakers communicated. ECNP was by far the largest conference I’ve ever attended and had a mix of different talk formats: from single-speaker plenary lectures, to more intimate ‘campfire sessions’ with more opportunity to participate in the discussion. There were also poster sessions throughout the days of the conference, which were useful for connecting with early career researchers in similar subject areas. The unexpected highlight talk of the conference was definitely the neurobiology of play plenary from Michael Brecht; who knew tickling rats would be so educational?

For my own poster, I presented a review based on a recent paper I published, summarising how targeting hippocampal circuit dysfunction during neurodevelopment may lead to novel treatments for psychosis. In a nutshell, the hippocampus (the sideburns of the brain) may be particularly vulnerable to the risk factors for psychosis due to its high degree of connectivity with other brain regions and extended neurodevelopmental timeframe. From what we know about the processes involved in this neurodevelopment, specific interventions may ameliorate hippocampal dysfunction before a cascade to psychotic symptoms. I’ve linked the poster in this blog post for those who would like to know more. Click HERE to see the poster.

All in all, ECNP was a fantastic conference experience and particularly useful as an early career researcher. I met a huge number of people involved in psychosis research, but also was inspired from people in completely different fields, taking new techniques into my own research and hopefully meeting new future collaborators.

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