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IIT Madras launches Sudha Gopalakrishnan Brain Centre to map human brains at cellular level

IIT Madras launches Sudha Gopalakrishnan Brain Centre to map human brains at cellular level

Principal Scientific Adviser to the government says the centre is the only one of this kind

India has taken a huge step forward in brain mapping with the inauguration of the Sudha Gopalakrishnan Brain Centre at IIT Madras on Saturday. The centre will focus on high resolution imaging of whole human brain at ‘cellular and connectivity level’.

K VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, who inaugurated the centre, said that globally, there are many projects that are studying the brain in different approaches; millions of dollars are spent in studying the brain in different ways. But this centre at IIT Madras is the only one of this kind; people across the world will try to replicate this project and use the data of the centre, he said. The PSA’s office has supported the centre through initial funding, he told newspersons.

Data analytics and medicine

This project is about understanding the brain’s anatomy, allowing researchers to find new applications and give better drugs and better interventions, he said. For example, there can be very thin sections of a micron of the brain. How can one examine those sections? Looking at how the brain is structured, collecting data that can run to petabytes, analysing different brains and studying how the brain develops are some of things the centre will do.

“The combination of IIT Madras, which has expertise in science and data analysis, with medicine is going to be revolutionary. Going forward, we have an extraordinary problem in neuroscience – the functioning of the human brain. We are at an earlier stage in our understanding of it and the IIT Madras Brain Centre will help in solving complex issues that will benefit the world,” VijayRaghavan said.


IIT Madras plans to train hundreds of undergraduate and postgraduate students in neuroscience, computing and machine learning techniques on cutting-edge brain data.

The centre will power a large-scale multi-disciplinary effort to map human brains at cellular level. It is supported by Infosys co-founder and IIT Madras’ Distinguished Alumnus Kris Gopalakrishnan and his wife Sudha Gopalakrishnan. Since 2014, Gopalakrishnan has been involved in seeding research at the institute at the intersection of neuroscience and engineering.

The centre aims to become a world-renowned research centre, generating ‘unprecedented’ amounts of human brain data, scientific output and technology tools. It has developed a high-throughput ‘histology’ pipeline that processes whole brains into high-resolution digital atlases. Through this technology platform, the centre is imaging post-mortem whole human brains of different types and ages, says a release.

The centre will work with India’s leading medical institutions and global leaders in brain mapping to become a globally renowned neuroanatomy research enterprise that generates sought-after human brain data and technology tools, the release said.

‘Knowledge economy’

Gopalakrishnan said that after stepping down from Infosys in 2014, he decided to do two things – support entrepreneurs and scientists. Entrepreneurs create the new generation of businesses, industry and companies; improve economic activity; and create wealth and jobs. They will create a new India. Scientists and engineers are a key part of creating a $5 trillion economy and then a $10 trillion economy because that’s where the knowledge is created, the new intellectual property is created, and that’s where this feeds in to the knowledge economy.

“I strongly believe that we can compete with the best in the world. We need to support research and entrepreneurship,” he said.

V Kamakoti, Director, IIT Madras, said that the brain research centre is a great case study which proves that technology can contribute to medicine and solve societal problems. The centre will make deep in-roads in collecting data for brain research.

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