Year of the Brain

With all that’s going on around the world in brain research and with the “Human Brain Project” in Switzerland, it’s a good time for Europe to be marking the Year of the Brain.

It’s a safe bet that most people have not heard of the European Brain Council (EBC) and the diligent work it does in coordinating and promoting the various good works of the dozens of brain societies, pharma and biotech companies, and governmental associations related to brain science. It must be an even safer bet that they will not have heard of the EBC’s intention to mark this year, 2014, as the Year of the Brain.

On one level, it may not matter if this promotional push does not get the profile it deserves, as the public is getting increasingly aware of the importance of brain science anyway, and there will still be plenty of brains around in 2015, and for many years to come. On the other hand, it verges on scandalous that the levels of investment in brain research have lagged so far behind other areas of medical research for so long, and we must grasp any opportunity to highlight the importance of the human brain and its impact on all other diseases, and on our wider quality of life.

At best, any “Year of Anything” is much less likely to achieve a target as to begin a process: ideally, a Year of the Brain should take our celebration of the brain up a gear. This should of course be reflected in greater revenues for mental health charities and for brain research. But it should mean more. For too long there has been a sense that “brains are hard”, their workings unknowable, the phenomenon of consciousness pretty much a mystery.

Our brains define us. We know enough about them to know that, but have yet not found the confidence to take on this last great human frontier. Now what we need is not a Year of the Brain that is marked by thousands of conversations between scientists, research clinicians and the politicians who hold the pursestrings. Everyone needs to get involved.

The greatest achievement of the European Brain Council in support of their Year of the Brain will be in encouraging that wider involvement, and engaging as many people as possible as widely as possibly in understanding how we can get to know our brains better.

The European Brain Council (EBC) is a coordinating council formed by European organisations in neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry, basic brain research (neuroscience), as well as patient organisations and companies from within the pharma and biotech industries. It represents a vast network of patients, doctors and scientists, and these stakeholders along with its industrial partners make it eminently suited to work in close partnership with the European Parliament and Commission, national governments as well as other policy making bodies. The EBC was officially founded on 22 March 2002 in Brussels.

For more information about the EBC, go here.