Institutions told to take up brain research project

EXPLAINING A POINT: Anbumani Ramadoss, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, listens intently as D. Nagaraja, Director and Vice-Chancellor of NIMHANS (right) has a word with President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at the 10th convocation of NIMHANS in B angalore on Monday. — Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy  

Staff Reporter

BANGALORE: President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on Monday called upon research institutions such as the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) to take up a comprehensive human brain project to tackle disorders such as depression, sleeping disorders, epilepsy and schizophrenia.

Speaking at the tenth convocation of NIMHANS, the President said the project should aim at preparing a structural and functional map of the human brain and facilitate convergence of all activities pertaining to brain research at the Centre.

"According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), brain disorders will be the greatest public health threat in the next few decades. A comprehensive human brain project should be taken up with active participation of research institutions, including NIMHANS, Government agencies, academia and the entire medical fraternity," he said.

The President suggested that NIMHANS take up a research programme to determine the correlation between clinical data and performance of individuals in different activities through structural and functional mapping of the human brain.

"If it is possible to analyse behavioural tendencies and derive an inclination or aptitude pattern of a person through rigorous and extensive research, especially at an early age, it will help the person to opt for that particular field. This will also enable early detection of negative emotions and projection of concealed destructive tendencies in a child, which can be set right at the early stage itself," he said.

Expressing concern over the growing incidence of HIV cases, Dr Kalam said: "HIV is emerging as a major healthcare concern. Scientific evidence exists to indicate the relationship between HIV and cognitive functions of the brain such as memory and learning."

Suggesting that neuroscientists address the patho-physiology of cerebral dysfunction in HIV-positive cases, the President said: "It will be worthwhile to explore the therapeutic potentials of indigenous systems of medicine, including herbal medicine, to circumvent the adverse effects of HIV on neuronal functions."

On treating mentally challenged children, the President wanted NIMHANS to have a vision involving the advances made in multiple disciplines of science and engineering to understand genetic disorders.

"These disorders can manifest as mental disorders and create mentally challenged children. Stem cell research and gene chip application are going to play a vital role in reversing many of the brain disorders. Can the brain researchers from NIMHANS and the young who are graduating today take it as a mission of their profession?" he asked.

Earlier, the President presented awards to 11 postgraduate students of NIMHANS for excelling in their courses. As many as 55 students, who graduated from the institute in 2003-2004, were presented certificates.