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European research in neuroscience serves society

To mark European Brain Week, the European Commission, Directorate-General XII, presented four research projects that are making significant advances in neuroscience.

These projects have important implications for the treatment of neurological diseases and our understanding of...
To mark European Brain Week, the European Commission, Directorate-General XII, presented four research projects that are making significant advances in neuroscience.

These projects have important implications for the treatment of neurological diseases and our understanding of the human brain, with obvious benefits for society and potential spin-offs for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry:

- The regeneration of nerve cells following injury to determine what can be done to aid regeneration;
- Slowing motor-neurone disease by finding ways of keeping motor-neurones alive;
- Using magnetic resonance imaging to see how the brain works in order to improve diagnosis and treatment of brain disease;
- Developing mouse and rat models for Alzheimer's disease to gain a better understanding of that disease.

Detailed descriptions of these four projects are appended at:

URL: http://europa.eu.int/comm/dg12/press/1999/pr1703en.html

Understanding the brain may be the only way to solve some of the social, medical and educational problems that impair the lives of European citizens, such as drug abuse, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke, epilepsy, mental retardation, dyslexia, and language learning, said DG XII. Gaining an insight into the complexity of the nervous system is no simple task. The human brain contains billions of nerve cells with extremely diverse characteristics, each neurone communicating with as many as 10.000 other neurones.

Experience from the European Union's Fourth Framework Programme (FP4) for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration (RTD) showed that research undertaken in neuroscience at the European level brings together excellent scientists with very different backgrounds to tackle the complex scientific challenge of understanding the human brain. The ultimate aim is to develop new or improved diagnostic, preventive and therapeutic approaches for neurological and mental disorders.

In FP4, the BIOTECH programme funded 45 transnational, multidisciplinary projects on cell communication in the nervous system involving 241 laboratories, with a total budget of ECU 42.1 million. In addition, the BIOMED programme supported 73 projects on 'Brain research' involving 495 teams with a total budget of ECU 45m.

The Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) will continue to tackle the important problems related to brain disorders and diseases and promote new diagnostic, preventive and basis for therapeutic approaches. FP5 will also pay special attention to the understanding of behaviour, memory, learning and recall, as well as language learning; and explore synergies between neuroscience and information technologies. It will ensure that neuroscience discoveries are transferred to European industries for development of new commercial opportunities and industrial innovation to the benefit of European citizen. Neuroscience is one of seven "R&D activities of a generic nature" which have been allocated a total budget of 483 million euro in FP5.

In addition, the FP5 key action "The ageing population and disabilities" will pay special attention to Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and the biological, psychological, socio-economic factors important for healthy ageing. The total budget for this key action is 190m euro.

Source: European Commission, Directorate-General XII

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