Understanding the Brain
The Centre for Neuroscience was established in the centenary year of IISc with the vision of having experts from diverse fields working together to tackle the challenges of neuroscience. The brain is a fascinatingly complex organ and an inter-disciplinary approach is best-suited to understand the myriad intricacies of brain function. As a testimony to that, the primary faculty at the centre range from biologists & chemists to engineers & physicists. The adjunct faculty comprises researchers from different departments of the institute as well as various clinical centres in Bangalore.
The centre has advanced imaging techniques for visualizing neural function. Multi-photon imaging is used to study neural processes involved in learning and memory formation by Balaji Jayaprakash’s group. Single molecular imaging at the nanoscale level is also in the pipeline. Deepak Nair’s group will be able to use it to find out how synapses (junctions between two neurons) function.
Neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease etc. currently have no cure and contribute substantially to the world’s disease burden. Vijayalakshmi Ravindranath’s group aims to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying these disorders & develop therapeutic strategies. Nerve cell regeneration post-injury is analyzed by Naren Ramanan’s lab to further our knowledge about the regenerative capacity of the nervous system.
Fundamental cognitive processes like neural control of action and neural mechanisms of object recognition are studied using electrical recordings from the brain, behavioral experiments and computational approaches. Work done by Aditya Murthy’s group in understanding these mechanisms will help comprehend the pathogenesis in conditions where motor control is compromised, resulting in motor abnormalities e.g. Parkinson’s disease.
When it comes to object recognition, no computer algorithm, as of today, matches human performance and yet, very little is known about the processes using which the brain performs object recognition. S P Arun’s lab is tackling this puzzle. Supratim Ray’s work on how we focus our attention – we manage to ignore much of the information about the external world the brain receives from the sense organs, focussing mostly on interesting and relevant details. Attention disorders occur if such control malfunctions.
Sridhar Devarajan’s group studies how cognitive phenomena, such as attention and decision making, emerge in the brain. For this they use neuroimaging (including functional MRI and EEG) as well as neurostimulation (TMS, tACS) in human participants performing complex attention tasks.
The young and growing centre has still many paths to traverse, but one can certainly hope that with such a vibrant interdisciplinary and collaborative effort, the research at the Centre for Neuroscience will unravel some of the many mysteries of the human brain.