Federation of the European Societies of Neuropsychology

The Federation of the European Societies of Neuropsychology (ESN) was officially launched in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, in September 2008. However, preparatory meetings had been held in Modena, Italy, in 2004 and Toulouse, France, in 2006.

The ESN Federation sprang from the need to fight parochialism in neuropsychology. Historically, most European countries have set their own national society of neuropsychology; in several instances, more than one society of neuropsychology exists in individual countries. These societies typically involve a few hundred members. Although these national societies are instrumental in fostering the topic locally, and serve the purpose of creating a sense of belonging, the need was felt for a larger forum, that would allow researchers to frame scientific discussions within a wider congregation and whose critical mass would be more notable by other bodies and policy makers. Among its founding aims, ESN will try to encourage and foster the development of European programs of clinical and experimental research along with pre- and post-graduate training, to present instances related to neuropsychology to the relevant political and bureaucratic bodies, and to spread neuropsychology findings through various media to the interested laypeople.

Members of each national society of neuropsychology that is part of the Federation are, by default, members of ESN. Since ESN currently encompasses 15 national societies (and several others are pending), it is a body with several thousand members.

The constitution of the ESN is available on its web site: www.fesn.eu. The main purpose of the newborn federation is to advance the interests of all areas within scientific and clinical neuropsychology, including the scientific and professional issues within the field of neuropsychology, such as cognitive neuropsychology, clinical neuropsychology, behavioral neurology, neuroimaging, and neuropsychological rehabilitation. To reach its goal, ESN organizes general meetings and topical meetings in alternating years. The first official meeting in Edinburgh gathered over 550 neuropsychologists. The next general meeting will be September 22-24, 2010, in Amsterdam; all are welcome to attend; the local organizer is Guy Vingerhoets (guy.vingerhoets@ugent.be). The next topical meeting will be held in Magdeburg, Germany, and will be devoted to “cognitive and behavioral deficits in degenerative dementias,” the local organizer is Thomas Münte (Thomas.Muente@med.ovgu.de), and again you are all very welcome.

The Federation is still in its infancy, and how it will develop remains to be seen. The various national societies partaking in this enterprise differ in terms of their composition and general scopes. For instance, some (e.g., those from the Scandinavian countries or Germany) are larger and care both for academic as well as clinical neuropsychology. Others, like those from the United Kingdom or Italy, are instead more focused on science-based activities, are smaller in terms of members, and are less involved in activities linked to professional matters. Moreover, some national societies attract mainly psychologists, whereas others include members from a variety of disciplines, from psychology to neurology to rehabilitation to neuroscience, provided the common interest in academic neuropsychology. Hence, to really be perceived as “home” by everybody, the newborn ESN should encompass all these different souls, which is by no means a trivial task! However, we are all very conscious that “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity,” as Robert Schuman, then French Foreign Minister, said in his address on May 9, 1950, presenting the plan for a European Union.

This is our first step, but an important one, to counter what APS Past President John Cacioppo has called the “balkanization” of psychological science. ESN is a new forum open to all European (and non-European) neuropsychologists, whatever their background, provided they belong to a learned society that values science and an evidence based approach within its remits.

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