The National Brain Research Centre, Haryana, has been engaged in unravelling the brain’s mysteries. Researchers will find the centre interesting.
The human brain and nervous system are susceptible to many diseases. Detailed studies and research on diverse aspects of the brain and the nervous system are crucial in keeping human health. This is the domain of brain research. It is a broad field, encompassing a wide range of disciplines from basic neuroscience to applied clinical research aimed at producing new scientific knowledge on aetiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment and prophylaxis of diseases affecting the brain and the nervous system.
(Aetiology: causes of disease; pathogenesis: origination and development of a disease; and prophylaxis: measures designed to preserve health and prevent the spread of disease.)
The brain and the mind form the basis of all that is truly human. They are the “wellspring of our abilities and desires, ranging from consciousness and cognition to communication and creativity.” The study of the brain demands knowledge in different disciplines such as biology, medicine, computing and humanities. To unravel the mysteries of the brain, we may need the knowledge base of a molecular biologist and the skills of a technologist well-versed in super computers.
A quality centre that conducts serious studies and research in this domain is the NBRC: National Brain Research Centre, NH-8, Manesar, Gurgaon, Haryana – 122 050, Website: www.nbrc.ac.in. The Centre was registered as an autonomous society in 1999. It is a deemed university.
The centre tries to organise research and interdisciplinary training to develop a pool of researchers in neuroscience, ranging from fundamental genetics to behavioural psychobiology. (Psychobiology: study of the effects of cognition, emotions and experience on animal physiology.) A new discipline called neuroinformatics has emerged. This is an area where neuroscience shakes hands with computer engineering. This offers computational tools and models that help clinicians and research scientists in developing new devices. An example of such a device is a mechanism which will make a mere wish actuate a complex machine. There are similar new areas such as neuroengineering, neurorobotics, neuroprosthetics, and neuroimaging systems.
There are numerous instances of brain damage leading to diseases. A well-known instance is the prevalence of degenerative conditions of the brain known as the Alzheimer’s disease. There are often other conditions related to dementia and dyslexia. (Dementia: loss of intellectual functions such as memory, judgment, language, orientation, and executive functioning. Dyslexia: difficulty in comprehending written language.)
A case study done by the World Health Organisation indicates that by 2040 more than six million people in India will be affected by dementia. The public health and socioeconomic implications will be enormous. The increase in life expectancy and the crumbling of the joint-family system, which traditionally offers support to the frail elderly people, add to the complexity of the problem.
The NBRC aims to be a centre of excellence in brain research with state-of-the-art facilities. It will generate highly trained quality human resource with the capability to carry out interdisciplinary research in neuroscience. Further, it will function as the national apex centre for neuroscience research in India, through networking among institutions across the country. It strives to grow into a world-class institute for brain research, helping Indian neuroscientists participate in global research efforts as equal partners.
The research centre undertakes high-calibre research in basic and clinical neuroscience related to diseases and disorders of the nervous system. It provides consultancy to institutions and industry.
Let us now look at some of the areas of research handled by the NBRC.
Adaptive information processing and computation by neural micro-circuits.
Autism and dyslexia.
CNS (central nervous system) stem cells as models of Alzheimer’s disease.
Development of auditory system in humans.
Epigenetic control of neuronal wiring and plasticity.
Genetics of dyslexia.
Language and speech processing in bilinguals.
Medical image and signal processing, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, brain stress quantification, biomarkers using multi-model imaging.
Molecular and cellular basis of NeuroAIDS.
Neural network mechanisms underlying spatial learning and memory.
Neuroinfection and inflammation.
Pathogenesis of Huntington’s disease (an inherited disease that affects muscle coordination leading to cognitive decline and psychiatric problems).
Retinal circuitry — in health and in disease.
Somatosensory and motor systems: information processing, plasticity, spinal cord injury and brain-machine interface.
Song control system in zebra finches (a kind of small birds).
Synaptic plasticity and memory in hippocampus.
Understanding the structural and functional basis of brain using neuroimaging modalities in neurodegenerative and neuro-oncological disorders.
Ph.D. in neuroscience:
Eligibility: A Master’s degree in any branch of science or a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering, Technology, Medicine or equivalent. Should have scored at least 55 per cent marks throughout the academic career from the 10th standard. Monthly fellowship for Junior Research Fellows is Rs. 16,000 and for Senior Research Fellows Rs. 18,000.
Integrated-Ph.D. in Neuroscience:
The course of study leads to the award of Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in Neuroscience.
Eligibility: Bachelor’s degree in any branch of Science, Engineering, Technology or Medicine or equivalent. Should have scored at least 55 per cent marks throughout the academic career from the 10th standard.
Monthly fellowship: Rs. 5,000 for the first two years. From the third year, fellowship on a par with Ph.D. students. After completion of the programme, the students will be awarded a dual degree (M.Sc. and Ph.D.).
The centre provides research opportunities for candidates with a Ph.D. degree, interested in the general area of neuroscience. The fees are nominal. Hostel accommodation, transportation facility and medical reimbursement will be given to all students.
Short-term programmes: The centre conducts eight-week summer training programmes for students through the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore; the Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi; and the National Academy of Sciences, Allahabad. The training projects give students an exposure to neuroscience and encourage them to consider it as a future career option.