With his body donated for medical research, 95-year-old Communist leader Jyoti Basu’s brain has become an object of interest for neuro-scientists and researchers in India, who are keen to study age-related and associated neurodegenerative changes in the brain. The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) is particularly keen on researching Mr. Basu’s brain.

A nonagenarian brain is always an object of interest for neuro-scientists, who are keen to study age-related and associated neurodegenerative changes in the brain, Dr. S.K. Shankar, Professor and Head of Neuropathology at the Bangalore-based institute explained, adding: “NIMHANS has got the only national research facility and human brain bank in the country.”

But any decision on what is to be done to the body of the veteran Communist leader is now up to the discretion of the authorities of the Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (IPGMER) in Kolkata, which is the custodian of the body as it had been gifted for medical research.

The institute needs a request from NIMHANS. “If such a request does come, a committee will consider it and take a decision accordingly,” a senior official told The Hindu in Kolkata.

Elaborating on how the brain could be useful for research, Professor Shankar said: “Even though he was 95 years old, he had very good mental faculties till his end. His brain could become a normal control sample that we need for studies comparing healthy brains with the brains of aged people with neurodegenerative diseases.”

He said if Mr. Basu’s brain was donated to NIMHANS and was in the brain bank, the authorities would ensure that total confidentiality was maintained. “We do not want souvenir hunters. Even the researchers will not know whose brain they are studying. We have a standard operating protocol under which every donated brain is anonymised by assigning a code based on its age. If we get Mr. Basu’s brain, we will follow the protocol to maintain the confidentiality of the deceased as per international standards.”

The 15-year-old brain bank at NIMHANS has more than 100 brains representing all age groups. “We respect all human beings and a brain is a brain for us no matter whose it is,” Professor Shankar said.

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