NIMHANS develops new Indian Brain Templates, brain atlas

Neuroscientists studied over 500 brain scans of Indian patients to cover five age groups from late childhood to late adulthood

September 12, 2020 10:44 pm | Updated 10:44 pm IST - Bengaluru:

Helpful tool:  The templates can be used to map brain structures of patients and make accurate assessments.

Helpful tool: The templates can be used to map brain structures of patients and make accurate assessments.

Soon, neurologists, neurosurgeons and psychiatrists in India can map the brain structure of their patients and make an accurate assessment using Indian Brain Templates (IBT) and a brain atlas developed by a team of neuroscientists from NIMHANS.

The neuroscientists studied over 500 brain scans of Indian patients to develop five sets of Indian brain templates and a brain atlas for five age groups covering late childhood to late adulthood (six to 60 years).

“The Montreal Neurological Index (MNI) template that we currently use is based on Caucasian brains. The MNI template was made by averaging 152 healthy brain scans from just a small slice of the city’s population in North America. But Caucasian brains are different from Asian brains. While some countries have their own scale to measure the brain, we are still dependent on the Caucasian brain template. What we have developed now is a scale that will measure an Indian brain,” said Dr. Vivek Benegal, Professor of Psychiatry, Centre for Addiction Medicine, one in the team of researchers.

The research by a team of doctors led by Bharath Holla, Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Integrative Medicine; Rose Dawn Bharath, Professor and Head of the Department of Neuro-Imaging and Interventional Radiology; and Dr. Benegal, was published in the journal Human Brain Mapping on August 26.

“The templates and atlas will provide more precise reference maps for areas of interest in individual patients with neurological disorders like strokes, brain tumours, and dementia. These templates and atlas will also help pool information more usefully in group studies of the human brain and psychological functions, aiding our understanding of psychiatric illnesses like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), autism, substance dependence, schizophrenia, and mood disorders,” Dr. Benegal explained.

Asserting the significance of the Indian templates, Dr. Holla said: “When most brain scans (MRI) are taken, they need to be compared to a standard brain template — a model or standard for making comparisons from a group of individual brain scans. This helps researchers identify parts of the brain. A challenge for researchers is that brain size and shape differs across ages, and across regions and ethnicities, and even greatly within any population.”

“While the vast majority of these differences are structural and are not associated with intelligence or behaviour, they do present a practical challenge of matching up similar regions across people, which is necessary for accurate measurements. These new population- and age-specific Indian brain templates will allow more reliable tracking of brain development and ageing, similar to how paediatricians monitor a child’s height or weight, for example, using a growth chart,” he explained.

Dr. Rose Dawn Bharath said that although there have been similar attempts previously in India, they were typically focused on young adults and had a significantly smaller number of subjects.

“Validation experiments and comparisons with existing international templates found that using the NIMHANS IBTs for Indian brains significantly improved the accuracy of alignment and thereby noticeably reducing distortions, errors or biases in final reports of brain structure and function,” she said.

The complete product is freely available for clinicians and researchers across India and the world. The datasets can be freely downloaded from https://hollabharath.github.io/IndiaBrainTemplates . “It now requires to be incorporated in normal protocols of brain imaging in India,” added Dr. Benegal.

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