First Evert Indian Brain Atlas Created

In News

The Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Hyderabad has created the first-ever Indian Brain Atlas (IBA).

In Detail

  • As per the researchers, it is found that the average Indian brain was smaller in height, width and volume compared to Caucasian and Eastern races.
  • The atlas is thus significant in treatment outcomes for neurological disorders like dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc.

MRI Scans

  • It is a general practice by medical practitioners to decide on a line of treatment based on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan.
  • But, the reference they use is created by the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI), which is based on Caucasian brains.
  • As the Indian Brain Atlas (IBA) revealed that Indian brains are smaller, there is a chance of misdiagnosis with MNI.

Brain Atlases

  • Talairach and Tournoux atlas is the earliest known brain atlas. It was a manual drawing of the brain of a French woman.
  • The first digital human brain atlas was created by MNI and International Consortium for Brain Mapping (ICBM) in 1993. It is thus used as a standard in neuroscience studies across the world.
  • But, IIITH researchers have demonstrated that this standard based on Caucasian brains is not ideal to analyse brains of ethnicities such as the Indian brains.

Idea for Research

  • The need for the research arose as the MRI scanning machines come with preloaded MNI scans for comparison.
  • The Chinese and Koreans have their own set of brain atlases while there was no corresponding atlas for the Indian population.

The Research

  • For bringing out an Indian atlas, first a pilot project with 50 subjects were involved, evenly balanced across genders.
  • MRI scans of these subjects were taken across three different hospitals, at three different locations using three different scanners for eliminating variations.
  • Later, the research team recruited 100 willing participants to construct the Indian Brain Atlas.
  • The age group of the participants is between 21-30 years as the brain will mature around this age.

The Findings

  • The researchers have found that the height, width, and volume of Indian brains compared to Chinese, Korean and MNI are significantly lower.
  • For example, the volume of the hippocampus of the brain is lower for Indians.
  • Also, the structure of the Indian brain is different from other populations.
  • But, it is more relatable with the Chinese and the Koreans that the Caucasians.

Does Size Matter?

  • The discovery raises questions such as, ‘dose size of the brain matter for being intelligent?’
  • But, many scientists argue that size is an indication for smartness but intelligence is dependent on how various parts of the brain communicate with each other.

Future Work

  • The IIITH research team will further expand their work to creating brain atlases for different age groups like 20-30, 30-40, 40-50 and 50-60.
  • This will help in understanding how brain ages and how diseases like Parkinson’s, dementia, etc., occur.
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