When neurology meets pharmacology

Medical science has, in recent years, accepted that the mental conditioning of a person can affect various other areas of his life including health. Consequently, it was deemed fit for psychiatrists to use medicines alongside more conventional modes of treatment. All these changes gave birth to a field of study whose name sounds complex but that aims to simplify many aspects of human health and behaviour.
Neuropsychopharmacology, a course that is currently offered by only four colleges in the world, is a science that is being increasingly discussed among psychiatrists and psychotherapists. A two-day conference is underway at Sewagram-based Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences that aims to acquaint the young doctors and students with the discipline that is still in nascent stage. It has the participation of some of the most renowned doctors from across the globe who discussed the miracles and progress of neuropsychopharmacology in the 21st century.

"The brains, neurology and mental make-up differ in every person. This is what determines their dependence on materials like alcohol, sleeping pills and many other addictives. All these and many other aspects of diseases that are believed to be caused by neural or drug related effects on brain and mind are being studied in this science. Even the most developed nations are not being able to develop this science as it asks for huge investments and so more institutions and countries need to take up the subject," said organizing secretary of the conference and head of the college's psychiatry department Dr Praveen Khairkar.
Dr Ajit Avasthi from the department of psychiatry at PGIMER Chandigarh, who was one of the faculties, said, "In the last few years, there has been a tremendous progress in our understanding about the working of brain and how drugs affect the functioning of the human mind. The science has a lot of promise for further development." Two problems that he believed needed to be dealt with, though, are the rational use of these drugs without causing problems and social acceptance of their use in the wake of newer molecules being developed.
The challenges that the field may face in the near future, according to Dr Ahmed Rady from the department of neuropsychiatry at Egypt's Alexandria University, include eliminating the side-effects of the new molecules and making them more human-specific. "As explanations about neurosciences keep on updating, we have more knowledge and better understanding of human genetic mapping. Since the bodies and minds of animals differ a lot from that of humans, these molecules can not be tested on animals. Yet, the number of side-effects needs to be reduced and efficacy increased which will be a big challenge," he said.
Neuropsychopharmacology is a field of study that combines psychopharmacology (the effect of drugs on the human mind) and neurosciences (the study of the nervous system). The science aims to study the drugs acting on the neurological system as well as psychological behaviour. Though the discipline has been around for around five decades but it came into prominence in the late nineties. Presently, there are only four colleges in the world that offer this course - American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, Canadian College of Neuropsychopharmacology and Belgian College of Neuropsychopharmacology.
Brain is responsible for passing on the impulses that trigger actions by means of neurotransmitters. It is believed that if this process of transmission goes wrong, diseases like Parkinson's syndrome, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and other motor skill disorders can result, which can be studied in this science. Its study can also give an insight into conditions like eating disorders, sleep disorders and anxiety disorders among others.

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