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In a stimulating presentation, ‘Food on the Brain’ Phil Burnet from the Department of Psychiatry and Ciara McCabe (University of Reading and former Oxford Neuroscientist) discussed the effects of food and gut microflora on the brain. Phil and colleagues have shown that the growth of ‘good’ intestinal bacteria by ‘prebiotics’ (dietary fibres), has anxiolytic effects in healthy volunteers, lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and reduces inflammatory signalling in the brain. Phil is now exploring the effects of prebiotics on cognition. The event was sponsored by the British Association for Psychopharmacology.

In another session ‘Cocktails: More than just a pretty drink?’ neuro-gastronomist Charles Spence from Experimental Psychology joined philosopher and flavour expert Barry Smith (London) to explore the science behind the glamour of cocktails.  The session enabled participants to experience for themselves how sound, ambient lighting, glassware and even naming effects the taste of a drink.

 Russell Foster from NDCN, who is also Chairman of the Festival, presented on the final day.  In a session entitled ‘Mental Health: How much can neuroscience help?’ Russell debated with Richard Bentall (Liverpool) and consultant psychiatrist Nick Craddock (Cardiff) the extent to which the latest developments in neuroscience are really helping patients.