Thoughts After Attending the American Neuropsychiatric Association Annual Meeting
Attending a professional conference is not easy. There’s the disruption to your schedule and the responsibility for finding clinical coverage. If the meeting is out of town, substantial financial costs and advanced planning are involved. Many of us also have to negotiate the extra burden placed on family members who care for children and households while we’re away. Then there’s the packing, traveling, and, for some, managing social anxiety, especially around unscheduled meals at the conference itself. It’s not a vacation. Why do we bother?
The recent 29th Annual Meeting of the American Neuropsychiatric Association (ANPA) reminded me of the reasons that I do bother to make the effort every year. This article present some of the highlights from talks and presentations at this year’s ANPA meeting (see Sidebar).
However, even outstanding content does not propel attendance: content is only the focal point around which other, important aspects of a conference experience unfold. After all, excellent and up-to-date information is available online 24/7, from home, and perusing that material on your computer may be a more efficient use of your time than sitting through a lecture that might be boring or offer you little new information. Moreover, it is possible to purchase continuing education credits for much less money than the cost of traveling to a professional conference. Once again, why do we bother?
The benefits of attending professional conferences extend beyond the program. My experience at the ANPA conference is surely similar to what others feel when they attend well-planned conferences sponsored by organizations in their areas of interest. There is a sense of excitement, the “thrill of the crowd,” as those who are passionate about a subject gather and devote time to a shared experience away from the ordinary day-to-day. Contributing to this thrill is the opportunity to interact informally with the field’s thought-leaders during breaks in the program, social hours, or poster sessions. In addition, the expected gratification that comes from hearing an outstanding scientific talk is multiplied when well-informed audience members ask probing questions and animated discussions spill out of the auditorium into the coffee break. Learning new ways of thinking often requires this kind of deeper, more active engagement with material.
1. Braga LW, Amemiya E, Tauil A, et al. Tracking adult literacy acquisition with functional MRI: a single case study. Mind Brain Ed. 2017;11:121-132.
2. Dehaene S. Pegado F, Braga LW, et al. How learning to read changes the cortical networks for vision and language. Science. 2010;330:1359-1364.