IIT Madras’ new brain centre seeks to become global neuro research hub

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New Delhi: The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) is setting up a brain research center on the Madras campus, which will adopt an engineering and technology-based approach to mapping the highest resolution of the human brain – and contribute to future brain-related fields. Research project under the Institute.

Mohan Shankar Shivprakasam, who is already head of the Healthcare Technology Innovation Center at IIT Madras, will also head the center – officially the ‘Computational and Experimental Platform for High-Resolution Terapixel Imaging of X-Vivo Human’. According to Shivaprakasam, the primary goal of the new brain research center is to create a first-level data set of high-resolution images of the human brain powered by technology.

“We want to create an atlas of cells in the human brain and their connections. It is the most complex human organ, where billions of cells are connected in a complex way. Today, we have magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for imaging the human brain. However, MRI-based restructuring of the brain is at a millimeter level, which means the data produced is thick, “says Shivaprakasam.

“While the above data is acceptable for some treatment, to go deeper into the subject, we need imaging data 0.5 microns or less. Today, this is not possible in a living human brain or even in a post-mortem, different sections of the brain. We started this in 2019,” he said. Added.

The proposal was made by the then Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of India K. It was presented to Vijay Raghavan, who in February 2020 approved the setting up of a brain research center at IIT Madras.

Brain research projects are seeing an increasing involvement of technology-driven platforms. BrainSightAI, an early-stage Indian startup, is working with efficient MRI (fMRI) data to create virtual or digital maps of the human brain using Dassault Systemes’ enhanced technology platform – and using replicated digital twins to understand the effects of electrical impulses. Treatment of nervous conditions such as schizophrenia.

The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in India is also using such technology in neurological research.

Shivprakasam claims that the advantage of IIT Madras is globally unique in its research objectives and methods – since it does not take a biological approach towards brain research, but is driven by new age technology.

This feature will look to create more than 2,000 sections of a small human brain, which will be mapped to data in multiples of 100TB. The data is then driven through a high-performance computing platform, to create a brain atlas for neural research. “We have already processed three brains through our center. Today, faculties around the world are using it – including about 15 researchers from across Europe, the United States, South Africa and Japan, “says Shivaprakasam.

Over the next decade and beyond, the center will be able to engage students – and companies from the medical and pharmaceutical industries – for new research projects on neurological conditions.

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