MAPrc Hosts the 2013 Australasian Schizophrenia Conference

MAPrc Hosts the 2013 Australasian Schizophrenia Conference


On May 13th and 14th, MAPrc convened the 2013 Australasian Schizophrenia Conference (ASC), which was held in the State Library of Victoria. This major Conference was themed ’Think Differently‘ and was a great event attended by just over 200 delegates. Importantly, the conference included delegates who are laboratory or ’bench‘ researchers as well as clinicians or ’bedside‘ researchers plus experts in public health. This rich mix of researchers led to lively discussions and networks being formed between researchers, forging new collaborations for future research.


Adhering to the theme of ’Think Differently‘, the conference was opened by well-known comedian Paul Jennings, who entertained the audience with his many uncanny impersonations of famous Australian politicians past and present. Unlike other conferences, we arranged for the ASC sessions to be chaired by early career researchers, rather than very senior academics. The younger researchers who enthusiastically chaired sessions greatly appreciated this opportunity.


The ASC proudly hosted several international plenary speakers including Professor Lakshmi Yatham, Professor of Psychiatry and Associate Head of Research and International Affairs in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia. Professor José M. Olivares from the Department of Psychiatry, Complejo Hospitalario Universitario de Vigo [CHUVI], Spain, was our second international speaker. On Tuesday 14th May, our international plenary speakers continued with Dr Jeff Conn, who is the Lee E. Limbird Professor of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University and Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery, USA, and Dr. James Gold, who served as faculty member and Clinical Director of the NIMH Neuropsychiatric Research Hospital, but has since joined the University of Maryland Medical School and the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, USA. Mr David Meldrum, the CEO of Mental Illness Fellowship, Australia spoke about ’Lobbying Governments and Raising Public Awareness about Schizophrenia’.


We were very fortunate to have a number of keynote speakers, chosen from the cream of Australian schizophrenia researchers. Professors Patrick McGorry, Julio Licino, Phillip Mitchell, John McGrath, Christos Pantelis, Jayashri Kulkarni, Michael Berk, Maarten van den Buuse, Cherrie Galletly, David Castle, Suresh Sundaram and Susan Rossell. There were excellent symposia held on both days with topics including social cognition, clinical practice guidelines for schizophrenia, beyond CBT for psychosis, brain stimulation & schizophrenia, schizophrenia & gene-environment interactions, women and psychosis, and treatment adherence.


The concurrent sessions were very busy with a total of 74 oral presentations and 24 poster presentations. The topics covered many diverse aspects of schizophrenia research and details can be obtained from the conference website:


After working hard during the first day of the conference, delegates attended the ASC dinner held at the Paris Cat Jazz Club in Goldie Place Melbourne. This cool club with 1940’s décor provided a superb backdrop for a live jazz band that got the delegates dancing to great music. The food was plentiful and the relaxed atmosphere of the club was perfect preparation for the next day’s conference activities.


The ASC major sponsor was Janssen Cilag, while other sponsors included Lundbeck, Roche and Eli Lilly. Mental Illness Fellowship Australia, the Florey Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute (Vic) and the Australasian Psychosis Research Network (APRN) each sponsored an international speaker.


Preceding the ASC, two separate workshops were convened. The ‘Cognition Workshop’, which was organised by Professors Susan Rossell and Chris Pantelis, was and held on Saturday 11 May, at the Alfred Hospital . Forty delegates enjoyed master – class discussions, which were facilitated by Dr James Gold.


The second workshop, ’The Women’s Mental Health Forum‘, was held on Mother’s Day, Sunday 12th May, in the historic Yarra Room at the beautiful Melbourne Town Hall. The Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Mr Robert Doyle, kindly donated the use of this room for our public forum. Approximately 70 people attended,  including clinicians, students and members of the general public. Presentations outlined new female-sensitive, tailored approaches to the understanding and management of women’s mental health, and highlighted:

•             The effect hormones have on women’s mental health

•             The impact of the pill on mood and specific risk factors which may predispose women to experiencing contraceptive-associated depressed mood

•             The time of menopause and the weight and mood fluctuations that can occur during this phase in a woman’s life

•             The serious condition of Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), characterised by severe emotional changes prior to menstruation, which interferes with a woman’s ability to get on with her daily life

This event was publicised on ABC Radio and television and has raised awareness about thinking differently regarding Women’s Mental Health.


Many MAPrc staff were involved in organising this highly successful conference and we are grateful to the staff of the State Library who provided excellent support throughout the Conference.


The aim of this Conference was to promote new approaches to research toward the causes and cures for schizophrenia. This aim was achieved as we learned about novel approaches to treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs, magnetic stimulation and new psychological treatments. Early intervention and the staging of illness treatments, as well as better understanding of cognitive deficits and the gene- environment interactions were discussed in detail.  Innovations in animal models and molecular biology were presented with great translational potential. Important steps forward were taken in describing the epidemiology of schizophrenia,  service delivery and health economics.


At the 2013 ASC, we continued to plan for future research through lobbying for funding, raising awareness about schizophrenia and making the decision to join together under an umbrella organisation called “Psychosis Australia Trust.”


This Australasian Schizophrenia Conference lived up to the theme ’Think Differently‘ in many ways and successfully set the scene for ongoing discoveries, all aimed at improving the outcomes for people with schizophrenia.


 MAPrc Multidisciplinary Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, Level 4, 607 St Kilda Road, Melbourne 3004