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