About this event

  • Date and time Mon 13 Sep 2021 from 8:25am to 4:45pm
  • Location Online
  • Organised by Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine, The British Society of Medical and Dental Hypnosis Scotland (BSMDH), British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis (BSCAH)

This live stream will explore and discuss the theory that all functional disorders ultimately derive from the brain and nervous system. Functional symptoms affect every aspect of medicine and yet each speciality attempts to deal with their particular manifestation of the problem separately. This live stream will bring together professionals from medical, psychological, and academic research fields in the hope that a greater understanding of this subject from different perspectives, will lead to more effective interventions.

Want to attend in-person at the RSM? You can book to attend this event in-person by clicking here

It is estimated that as many as 50% of new referrals to hospital outpatient clinics suffer from symptoms for which no specific underlying cause can be identified. Every speciality uses different terminology to describe these conditions but overall, there are insufficient effective therapeutic interventions currently available, leaving many patients suffering and significantly disabled.

This live stream will uncover the latest neuroscience research that is starting to shed some light on the underlying mechanisms. Functional symptoms form a huge part of every doctor’s workload and yet minimal teaching of this subject is provided at either undergraduate or postgraduate levels. An early positive diagnosis is vital to improve prognosis but currently, it can take years.

Can we develop different ways of researching this topic? Are RCT’s the best way forward? Should personalised care be considered? One therapy does not necessarily suit all and will be discussed.

It is likely neuroscience research will make a huge difference to our understanding of these extremely common debilitating conditions. Homeostasis, phenomenological control, perception, suggestibility, beliefs, predictive coding are no doubt playing a part in the development of functional symptoms.

This live stream will facilitate clinicians from varied specialities and researchers from different backgrounds to exchange ideas and collaborate. You will get the opportunity to hear some of the doctors, psychologists and neuroscientists who are currently looking for answers and solutions in this field and listen to thought-provoking panel discussions.

This live stream will cover:

  • The differences and similarities of functional disorders and how symptoms can overlap - what do they have in common and how do they differ?
  • The therapeutic approaches and treatment programmes being developed and provided by different specialities.
  • What works best for which symptoms and which patients.
  • The latest neuroscience research that is starting to shed light on the underlying mechanisms.

If you are an academic psychologist or neuroscientist, no prior knowledge of functional disorders is required.

CPD learning applied.

Join in the conversation online using #RSMHypno
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Key speakers

Professor Jon Stone

Consultant Neurologist and Honorary Professor of Neurology, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Scotland

Speaker's biography

Professor Jon Stone is Professor of Neurology at the University of Edinburgh and Consultant Neurologist with NHS Lothian.


Professor Stone has promoted new transparent, pragmatic and multidisciplinary approach to understanding, diagnosing and communicating Functional Neurological Disorders.


Historically, this has been a “no-man’s land” between neurology and psychiatry which represents the second commonest reason for a neurological referral.


In 2009 he made the first website for patients with FND at www.neurosymptoms.org which is now widely used across the world. He has published over 300 articles in the area including large cohort, mechanism and treatment studies. and led on new diagnostic criteria for FND in DSM-5 and ICD-11. He is the first Secretary and co-founder of the new international FND society (www.fndsociety.org).


His awards include the Jean Hunter prize from the Royal College of Physicians (2014), Royal College of Psychiatry President’s Medal (2017) and the Ted Burns Humanism in Neurology Award from the American Brain Foundation (2020).

Professor Peter Whorwell

Professor of Medicine and Gastroenterology, The University of Manchester, UK

Speaker's biography

Professor Peter Whorwell graduated in biochemistry at the University of London and in medicine at Guy’s Hospital, London. After a series of residencies and fellowships, one of which was in the USA, he was appointed as Consultant Physician and Gastroenterologist at the University Hospital of South Manchester in 1981 and was subsequently promoted to Professor of Medicine and Gastroenterology. Over the years he has had a particular interest in functional gastrointestinal disorders and now directs the South Manchester Functional Bowel Service. This unit undertakes research into the clinical, epidemiological and pathophysiological aspects of functional gastrointestinal disorders as well as caring for large numbers of these patients from all over the UK. It also undertakes a wide-ranging programme of research into new treatment options for these conditions including pharmacological, dietary and behavioural approaches.


Professor Whorwell has published over 350 papers and chapters in his fields of interest and serves on a number of international advisory panels and working parties.

Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan

Consultant, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, UK

Speaker's biography

Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan qualified in medicine in 1991 from Trinity College Dublin . she is trained in both neurology and clinical neurophysiology.


She has been a consultant since 2004 and has been at The National Hospital for Neurology and The Epilepsy Society since 2011.


Her specialists interests are in epilepsy and in improving services for people who suffer from functional neurological disorders.

Professor Anil Seth

Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience, the University of Sussex, UK

Speaker's biography

Professor Anil Seth is Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, where he is also Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. He is also a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow, Co-Director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) Program on Brain, Mind, and Consciousness, and Co-Director of the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme: From Sensation and Perception to Awareness.


He is Editor-in-Chief of Neuroscience of Consciousness (Oxford University Press), was Conference Chair of the 16th Meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC16, 2012), and since 2014 he’s been a member 'at large' for the ASSC. He was the 2017 President of the British Science Association (Psychology Section), and he’s a recent European Research Council Advanced Investigator.


He edited and co-authored the best-selling 30 Second Brain (Ivy Press, 2014), was a consultant for Eye Benders (Ivy Press, 2013; winner of the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2014) and he contributes to a variety of media including the New Scientist, The Guardian, and the BBC. He writes the blog NeuroBanter - but not as frequently as he should. His new book - Being You: A New Science of Consciousness - will hit the shelves on September 2, 2021.


View the programme

Welcome and introduction  

Dr Deborah Mairs-Houghton President, Section of Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine, Royal Society of Medicine and Dr Jane Boissière President, British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis

Session one

Chaired by: To be announced

“If I only had a brain”

Professor Jon Stone, Consultant Neurologist and Honorary Professor of Neurology, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh 

Hypnosis and pain modulation: How does it work?

Dr Audrey VanHaudenhuyse, Head of the Sensation and Perception Research Group, GIGA Consciousness, University of Liège 

Exposing the elephant! Developing an integrated care pathway for persistent physical symptoms. A liaison psychiatrist’s perspective

Dr Catherine Maxey, Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist and Clinical Sub-Dean, Cambridge University Clinical School of Medicine 

Panel discussion
Comfort break

Session two

Chaired by: Dr Andrew Papanikitas, President, General Practice with Primary Healthcare Section, Royal Society of Medicine

Hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Professor Peter Whorwell, Professor of Medicine and Gastroenterology, The University of Manchester 

How expectations affect the perception of pain

Dr Katja Wiech, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford 

Mind Body aspects of Complex Regional Pain Syhdrome and Joint Hypermobility Syndrome

Dr C Bernard Colaco, Consultant Rheumatologist, Central Middlesex Hospital Rheumatology Unit 

Panel discussion

Session three

Chaired by: Sir Simon Wessely, Professor of Psychological Medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London

The social life of illness

Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan, Consultant, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery

Back to the Future: novel treatment approaches to Functional Neurological Disorders’

Dr Timothy Nicholson, Clinical Lecturer, the Institute of Psychiatry Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London

Hypnotic techniques in the management of functional disorders

Dr Ann Williamson, Retired General Practitioner 

Panel discussion
Comfort break

Session four

Chaired by: Dr Devin Terhune, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London

Predictive processing and phenomenological control - how suggestion changes experience

Professor Anil Seth, Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience, the University of Sussex 

Understanding and treating functional neurological disorder

Dr Richard Brown, Programme Director, the University of Manchester

Panel discussion
End of meeting



Disclaimer: All views expressed in this live stream are of the speakers themselves and not of the RSM nor the speaker's organisations.

Special rates for difficult times 
The RSM wishes to offer healthcare professionals continued learning opportunities during the coronavirus pandemic. The RSM’s ​weekly COVID-19 Series ​webinars remain free of charge, while there will be small charges to register for other online education. These fees will enable the RSM to continue its programme of activities and will apply during the course of the pandemic.

Registration for this live stream will close 2 hours prior to the start time. You will receive the webinar link 2 hours before the meeting. Late registrations will not be accepted.

This live stream will be available for registered delegates 30 days after on Zoom. The link will be sent 24 hours after the webinar takes place. 

This live stream will be recorded and stored by the Royal Society of Medicine and may be  distributed  in future on various internet channels. 

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