Reports from the MNDA International ALS/MND Symposium in Brussels

The MNDA hosted their informative and collaborative symposium in Brussels recently where international MND/ALS researchers got together to present findings, discuss policy and clinical care and to facilitate networking with other colleagues.

Members of the Euan MacDonald centre clinical and research teams were pleased to have the opportunity to present some of their research to an international audience.

  • You can also watch Dr. Phillipa Rewaj‘s audioBoom after she had presented on the Voice Bank Research Project:

Anna-Claire Devlin is a joint PhD student with St. Andrews University and she told us about her experiences in Brussels:

photo 1With the support of the Euan MacDonald Centre, I was able to attend the 25th International ALS/MND symposium in Brussels. With a wide range of topics covered during the talks and poster presentations, we had plenty to keep us busy for the trip! As a lab based PhD student, I attended the science oriented talks which covered a range of important aspects involved in ALS/MND including mechanisms which are thought to cause and contribute to the disease, as well as different types of models used to study such mechanisms. I found all sessions very interesting but those of particular relevance to my project were: in vitro modeling, cell biology and pathology, and non- neuronal cells. I particularly enjoyed the research presentations given by Prof. Clotilde Lagier-Tourenne, winner of the International Paulo Gontijo (IPG) award, who is currently investigating the effects of loss or gain of function of the C9ORF72 gene in animal models of ALS/MND, Prof. Kevin Eggan who discussed the use of human induced pluripotent stem cells as a model for the disease and as a drug screening tool, and Dr. Barney Bryson who described how he is using light- sensitive stem cells to restore muscle function in animal models of ALS/MND. The final highlight of the conference for me was getting to present my own data at the poster session where I had the opportunity to network with other researchers, as well as getting valuable and encouraging feedback on my work.


Ratko Radakovic is also a PhD student who attended. He wrote a report on the Cognitive Changes session for the MNDA as part of their roving research reporter series or RECCOB. Ratko told us:

Ratko giving talkThe symposium was a great opportunity to meet and socialise with fellow researchers and clinicians, whilst exchanging ideas and experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot from the talks I attended, with specific focus on the Epidemiology and Cognitive Changes session. In addition, I was invited as a speaker in the Cognitive Changes session, on apathy in ALS, for which I was very grateful. It seemed like my talk was very well received, while stimulating good discussion and revealing a lot interest in this type of research. This resulted in the fostering of some very good research relationships.”  



Dr. Elaine Niven also attended and she reported:

photo 4“The 25th International Symposium on ALS/MND provided a fantastic opportunity to consolidate a number of projects with collaborators, and to spend time discussing our data; I was fortunate enough to receive interest and generous feedback on our poster on Cognitive Change and Quality of Life in ALS.

Each of the symposium’s sessions included inspiring presentations. One particularly insightful talk was that of Professor Snowden who described research into the link between MND and frontotemporal dementia (FTD); detailing extensive comparisons that are being carried out at many levels of investigation (pathologically, genetically and through cognitive and behaviour assessment), Professor Snowden revealed recent findings which suggest that there are important and quite striking differences between FTD and the occurrence of MND/FTD. I look forward to seeing this work progress and inform the understanding of both FTD and milder cognitive change in MND.

A further highlight of the symposium was seeing Dr Eneida Mioshi volunteer to (very successfully!) present the work of another speaker who was, at the last minute, unable to present herself due to unforeseen circumstances. The community spirit, enthusiasm, and drive to communicate and share research that was evident in this act really sums up, for me, what makes this particular symposium so important and so special.”