NIMHANS to set up brain and mind museum to increase awareness of neuroscience in Bengaluru

The museum proposes to aggregate advances in information and communication technology, graphics and animation, incorporate virtual reality, and professional expertise in various fields of mental health and neuroscience

Updated - August 26, 2023 10:17 am IST

Published - August 25, 2023 05:32 pm IST - Bengaluru

An exhibit at the brain museum in National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru.

An exhibit at the brain museum in National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: File photo

To improve awareness about mental health and neurosciences as well as decode functioning of the brain, NIMHANS is working on setting up a brain and mind museum in its platinum jubilee year. The existing Heritage Museum and the proposed ‘Human Brain Museum’ will be integrated into a new facility in Bengaluru, making it “the first, largest and most innovative ‘Museum of the Brain and Mind in the world”.

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The museum proposes to aggregate advances in information and communication technology, graphics and animation, incorporate virtual reality, and professional expertise in various fields of mental health and neuroscience. The idea is to provide an experiential and interactive experience for visitors with comprehensive, authentic information on the functioning of the brain and the mind, in health and disease.

NIMHANS Director Pratima Murthy told The Hindu, “There are plans to have a holographic zone, and an incubation centre for scientists to discuss and experiment with innovative ideas, particularly for start-ups, idea validation, mentorship and guidance, networking, funding assistance, research and marketing. We are also working on making the museum available online. Another idea being explored is of a travelling exhibition.”

How trauma, use of substances and lifestyle can alter functioning of brain

Cutting-edge technology for display proposed to be used include touch tables, transparent displays, interactive 2D touch screens, augmented reality experiences, virtual reality headsets, virtual reality caves and haptic devices to allow visitors to feel 3D objects in virtual reality space.

The institute is looking for philanthropic and CSR support for this initiative, Dr. Murthy said.

Prabha S. Chandra, Dean of Behavioural Sciences at NIMHANS, said, “High-end technological interfaces will represent an educative experience by itself, and will reflect the progress in technology made in recent times. The museum will help visitors understand how the brain functions in health, how motor and sensory functions are coordinated, how consciousness is maintained, how thoughts, actions and feelings are formed, and how trauma, use of substances, and lifestyle can alter functioning of the brain.”

Over 300 specimens of human brain on display in museum

The existing brain bank is a human brain repository of tissue and fluids collected at post-mortem, with informed consent of close relatives. It has been established as a resource organisation to procure precious human nervous tissue for neurobiological research in India.

Exhibits at the brain museum at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences in Bengaluru.

Exhibits at the brain museum at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: File photo

Anita Mahadevan, Professor and Head of Department of Neuropathology, who is also coordinator of the bank and museum, said, “Over 300 specimens of the human brain are on display at the museum, and an equal number are stored in the bank. One half of the brain from neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorder cases are frozen at -86 degree Celsius while the other half is formalin fixed, which can be used for pathomorphological studies.

“Since its inception in 1974, the bank has archived human brain, brain biopsies, serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from various neurological and psychiatric disorders for research. The mission is to make people N-literate (neuroscience literate). The number of brain donations are also on the rise over the years. Overall, we have collected over 50 donated brains from Bengaluru.

“Right now, the brain is a structure at the bank and museum. Its functioning is something that we cannot show on a specimen. We will use digital technology to show how the brain works, the connectivity, how nerve impulses travel. We want to expand from anatomy to try and show function.”

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