Keynote speaker :
Reported by: A.J.W. Taylor
Bessel A van der Kolk gave the first keynote address of the conference, entitled "The psychobiology of post traumatic states". In what proved to be a tour de force, he traced the recognition of trauma through art and internal medicine to psychoanalysis and finally to a synthesis in psychobiology. He made the comment that clinicians and researchers were often limited by the prevailing concepts and knowledge of psychological trauma, and in World War 1 they were so affected by the evidence of carnage in the trenches that they were silent on the topic. But they were more attentive in World War 2, under the impulse to minimise battle-related psychological casualties. Subsequently after the Vietnam War they gave full recognition to PTSD, and soon afterwards they extended the conceptual category to civilian victims who had suffered in a wide variety of disaster and emergency situations. Amnesia captured their attention, and it led them to focus on the different sensory modalities and components of memory, as well as on the meaning victims gradually ascribed to their traumatic experiences. More recently they have been able to monitor the limbic system and in particular of the amygdala with brain scans for evidence showing the existence and then the dispersal of troublesome memories. Such site-specific interactions of body/mind phenomena can indeed be described as exciting indicators for clinical and theoretical developments in the trauma field.