Congress Recap: Sixth World Congress on Brain Injury

The 6 th World Congress on Brain Injury was held in Melbourne, Australia, from the 4-8 th May 2005, in conjunction with the annual scientific meetings of the Australasian Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine (AFRM) and Australian Society for the Study of Brain Impairment (ASSBI). The Conference Chairman was Dr David Burke and the Scientific Program Chairs were Professor Jennie Ponsford and Associate Professor John Olver, assisted by a committee and conference organizers, International Convention Management Services. The conference was the largest of IBIA's World Congresses held to date, with 1200 conference delegates attending, including brain injured individuals and their families, neurosurgeons, rehabilitation physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, social workers, nurses, case managers and lawyers.

congress-recap-sixth-world-congress.jpgThey came from the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, China, Japan, Malaysia, India, Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Keynote speakers included Professors Graham Teasdale from the University of Glasgow, UK, Erin Bigler, from Brigham Young University, USA, Roberta dePompei, from the University of Akron, USA, Stefan Hesse, from Free University in Berlin, Mary Anne McColl, from Queens Universty in Canada, Michael Oddy, the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust, UK, Catherine Mateer, from the University of Victoria, Canada, Bob Robinson, from the University of Iowa, USA, Donald Stein, from Emory University, USA, Lynne Turner-Stokes from Northwick Park and King's College, UK and John Whyte, from Moss Rehabilitation Institute, USA.

Nine pre-conference workshops covered a broad range of topics. Catherine Mateer (pictured) presented a workshop entitled “Effective strategies for the integrated management of cognition and emotional difficulties following brain injury,” while John Whyte explored an Hypothesis-Testing Approach to Cognitive Rehabilitation. Roberta de Pompeii highlighted the needs of children and adolescents with brain injury in an educational context in her workshop entitled “Educating students with TBI: Strategies and transitions”.

Malcolm Hopwood and Sue Sloan addressed issues in a workshop on “Dealing with difficult behaviour following TBI. Mary Anne McColl discussed methods of Measuring community Integration in Post-Acute Rehabilitation. A workshop chaired by John Olver examined the uses of botulinum toxin in treating spasticity. Melanie Atkins and Sandra Batten discussed use of support workers to improve outcomes and Ava Easton argued the importance of the role of the family in recovery. Finally a panel of experts from the USA, UK, New Zealand and Australia, chaired by David Burke, examined the relative merits of common law versus no-fault compensation schemes.

In his keynote address opening the conference, Professor Graham Teasdale explored the evolution of methods of assessing severity and outcome following TBI, emphasizing the complex factors that determine long-term outcomes. Erin Bigler impressed the audience with the latest technological advances in imaging brain function, Bob Robinson reported upon the nature, incidence and progression of neuropsychiatric disorders after TBI and Donald Stein reported recent research findings suggesting a role for progesterone in improving outcome from brain injury. John Whyte and Lynne Turner-Stokes discussed the many challenging methodological issues facing rehabilitation researchers.

Stefan Hesse described intelligent systems for providing intense individual repetitive therapy of motor function after stroke. From another angle, Catherine Mateer argued for the integration of cognitive behavioural techniques with traditional cognitive rehabilitation in order to address self-awareness and motivational issues in individuals with brain injury, and Michaal Oddy addressed the important role of and needs of the family. Mary Anne McColl and Roberta dePompeii spoke for the need to change systems to provide seamless services for adults, children and adolescents with ABI as they return to the community.

These keynote speakers spearheaded a diverse scientific program which included over 320 platform and poster presentations. Topics included recent research in injury prevention, the neurobiology of injury and recovery, acute management and recovery, as well as assessment and treatment of common medical problems and disorders in cognition, motor function, language, speech, emotion and behaviour, including psychiatric disorders, exploration of different approaches to rehabilitation, return to work and study and evaluation of outcomes. Research covered the spectrum of injury severity, from mild to extremely severe as well as all ages from child through to adult. Issues relating to long-term care of those with brain injury including case management, innovations to enhance leisure and community participation and medico-legal issues were also covered.

Recent developments in neurobiological research and their implications for neuropharmacological management were explored. Numerous papers examined the emerging use of computer technology and other electronic devices, including mobile phones, digital organizers and sophisticated expert systems and a “Virtual Street” to assist in assessment and remediation of memory and executive difficulties after TBI. The importance of client-focused, community-based approaches to rehabilitation available over an extended time-frame was emphasised. Valuable insights were offered into emotional processing in both adults and children with brain injury.

There was also a focus on rehabilitative interventions for children, as area which has been neglected to date. A symposium with graphic images examined traumatic brain injuries sustained in the attack on the World Trade Centre and the War on Iraq, which has created a recent focus on the impact of blast injuries. There were several extremely moving presentations by Luke Rosenzweig and Andrew Harrison, who related their personal experiences of brain injury. Several sessions also addressed the importance of family involvement and the need to support families and other carers. Attendance by a significant number of families and consumers was sponsored by the Victorian Department of Human Services. Other major sponsors of the conference included the Transport Accident Commission, Allergan, Healthscope, Epworth Hospital, Ipsen, Pfizer and Karger.

The conference was held at the Melbourne Convention Centre, situated on the banks of the Yarra River, close to many of Melbourne 's attractions. An array of Australian animals, including pythons, lizards and a crocodile welcomed guests at the cocktail reception. The conference dinner was held amidst a myriad of tropical fish at the Melbourne Aquarium. Overall, the conference was deemed a resounding success.

Abstracts from the conference have been published in Vol 19 Supp 1 of the official research journal of the International Brain Injury Association Brain Injury.