Can changes to lifestyle factors such as physical activity, smoking and diet prevent depression? Could emerging physical treatments such as direct current brain stimulation replace drug-based depression therapies?

New developments in research into depression and other mental disorders will be discussed at a major Brain Sciences symposium at the University of New South Wales next week (Monday 31 August).

The symposium, The Emotional Brain, brings together experts from Australia and the UK to discuss emerging research fields focusing on mood disorders, the neurological origins of emotions, and the biological markers for post traumatic stress disorder.

Evidence suggests that prompt treatment of depression is associated with better outcomes, but what of efforts to head off the illness before it manifests? One of the keynote speakers, Professor Michael Berk, from the University of Melbourne, argues psychiatry has largely overlooked preventative strategies for depression.

"Preventative approaches focusing on risk factors such as physical activity, smoking and diet would be cost-effective and overlap with strategies to prevent other medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes," he says.

Professor Colleen Loo, from UNSW's School of Psychiatry, will outline new physical approaches to treating depression including Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, Direct Current Stimulation, Vagus Nerve Stimulation, Deep Brain Stimulation and Focal Electrically Assisted Therapy.

Other symposium presentations include:

What: The Emotional Brain - UNSW Brain Sciences symposiumWhen: Monday 31 August, 9am - 5pm Where: Leighton Hall, The Scientia building, UNSW Kensington campus

The full symposium program is available at the Brain Sciences website

UNSW Brain Sciences is a consortium of researchers from UNSW's Faculties of Science, Medicine and Engineering, the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute (POWMRI), the Black Dog Institute and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

Media contact: Steve Offner, UNSW Media, 02 9385 8107 or 0424 580 208