Perspectives on the International MND Symposium

researchers in a conference hall watching a presentation

Feb 2019: We asked our researchers to reflect on what they gained by attending the International Symposium on MND.

At the end of last year, the MND Association 29th International Symposium on MND/ALS was held in Glasgow. Being 'on our doorstep', this was an excellent opportunity for many Centre members to attend, meet other researchers, forge new connections and hear about the very latest in all aspects of MND research going on worldwide.

Thanks to the generosity of our donors and fundraisers, the Euan MacDonald Centre was able to provide bursaries to 12 early-career researchers to support their attendance.

Now, a couple of months on, we asked them to reflect on what they gained from this experience. It was clear that everyone found attending the conference a rewarding and energising experience, as the reports were littered with words like "exciting", "inspiring" and "fascinating". Below are a few edited highlights.

"Presenting my poster was an excellent opportunity to receive feedback on the work I was doing, as well as getting a whole notebook full of ideas of which direction I could take my research in the future. It was truly inspiring to see how many people have dedicated their research careers to fighting MND, and I felt honoured to be part of the team." Ali Thomson, Postdoctoral Researcher, Edinburgh

"There is clearly an urgent need to adapt and innovate trial design to improve success in MND trials. Prof Mahesh Parmar’s talk was eye-opening. He talked about the innovative trial design of STAMPEDE, a trial for prostate cancer. The same model highly efficient solution to the multiple challenges of conducting efficient MND trials." Maria Stavrou, Clinical Fellow, Edinburgh

"I was particularly interested in all the work regarding Spinal Muscular Atrophy. The poster session gave me both the opportunity to discuss the data in more depth and to show some of my work." Elena Hernandez Gerez, PhD student, Aberdeen

"It was great to hear about all of the exciting research. I was particularly interested in findings from the University of Sydney showing that people living with MND who experienced psychotic symptoms had greater difficulties with memory and thinking -  this ties in with my own research." Caroline McHutchison, PhD Student, Edinburgh

"Discussing our research with colleagues from the Netherlands, Ireland and Germany allowed us to refine and clarify the findings of our study to maximise its impact." Chris Crockford, former PhD Student, Edinburgh

"Following my presentations, there was interest from several other researchers – this positive feedback was encouraging and motivational, and has helped develop links for potential future research." Danielle Leighton, former Clinical Fellow, Edinburgh

"This was the first MND conference that I have presented at and it was particularly interesting to see two popular themes emerging that are both related to my PhD: how energy is handled in the cells of people with MND, and understanding what is going wrong in the 'wires' – the axons – of motor neurons." Arpan Mehta, Clinical Fellow, Edinburgh

"I enjoyed presenting my data and telling people what we have achieved over the past years. The talks were very engaging and managed to connect MND with other conditions, which was not very obvious to me beforehand." Cornelia Roesl, Postdoctoral Researcher, Edinburgh

"The conference provided the chance to see the sheer scope of ideas being tackled by teams around the world. Particular points of interest for me included using fruit flies to study cellular functions related to MND, and a new technique that uses blue light to visualise the clumping of proteins in cells." Brenda Murage, PhD Student, Edinburgh

"Attending the Symposium further strengthened my belief that to pursue neuroscience research is a privilege which goes far beyond any job or a career and its true calling is to share the responsibility of helping those who are living with neurological conditions." Amit Chouhan, PhD student, St Andrews

Using stem cells to observe axonal transport

In this 'off the cuff' MND Association video, Arpan Mehta, Euan MacDonald Centre Clinical Fellow, talks us through the poster he presented at the Symposium

Related links

'Periodic table of MND research' - summaries of what happened at the Glasgow meeting on the MND Association website

International Symposium on MND/ALS page on the MND Association website

Video of "Ask the Experts" session featuring Euan MacDonald Centre researchers, on MND Scotland website

This article was published on: Thursday, February 21, 2019