ADDRESS AT THE INAUGURATION AND DEDICATION OF THE NEW CAMPUS OF NATIONAL BRAIN RESEARCH CENTRE
16-12-2003 : Manesar
National Development and Entrepreneurs
I am indeed delighted to participate in the inauguration of the permanent campus of National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) which was established with a vision of developing into a vibrant world-class institute for brain research and catalyzing the overall growth of neuroscience community in the country. I understand that an international symposium on "Building the Brain" is also in progress. I extend my greetings to the organizers, eminent scientists and researchers, delegates and participants of the symposium and all the members associated with the NBRC.
Can computer challenge the Brain?
I would like to share with you friends, some of the predictions of Ray Kurzweil written in his book "When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence - The Age Of Spiritual Machines". World Wide Web will make tremendous impact in the way we communicate and live. Most of the computers and accessories will be of micro sized, wearable and will have wireless communications with each other. Moderately priced PCs capable of performing about a billion calculations per second today, will be able to perform about a trillion calculations per second with in next 10 years. It is possible by 2020 computational ability of an ordinary PC could exceed the capability of human brain. By 2030 the capability of a normal PC would be around 1000 times of human capability. Definitely my view is: the creativity of the human mind will be always superior to even the most powerful computer in the horizon. This thought I would like, the researchers who have assembled here may like to debate.
By the end of this century there would be a strong trend towards convergence of human thinking with the world of machine intelligence that the human species initially created. When there would no longer be any clear distinction between human and computers, how the molecular biologists would help us to retain the supremacy of man over the machines? Computers are going to give us a challenge. It is not only for the biologists and bio-technologists, the entire scientific community would have greater responsibility of keeping the mankind above the man-made computers. Unfortunately, the creativity and imagination components of human brain have not been fully explored and utilized. Even the human genome research has enormous application of software in understanding the complex sequence of gene profile and its relationship to human health and disease. With a wide ethnic diversity of our nation, a unique database can be created with special application of pharmacogenetics (personalized medicine) for focusing healthcare delivery.
With the recent advancement in the computational capabilities and bioscience and also availability of large amount of clinical data, we were stimulated to study the brain particularly in the conditions of mentally challenged children.
Mentally Challenged Children Research
When I was associated with Anna University in Chennai some time back, apart from my teaching activities on various societal transformation missions, I was guiding a doctoral research project. The research was aimed to find integrated solution using a software, hardware application to achieve a near normal functioning of the brain of mentally challenged children. When I saw some of the mentally challenged children performing certain activities like singing, painting in Central Institute of Mental Retardation, Thiruvananthapuram, I got convinced that one day convergence of information and communication technology, medical electronics, bio-technology and mathematical simulation can find a solution for their problem. We have been studying the mentally challenged children in various research institutions, homes for mentally retarded and hospitals. We are confident that it will be possible to transform the functions of the damaged portion of the brain say left hemisphere to the normal portion right hemisphere of the brain by some triggering mechanism, or by implanting a bio-chip to carry-out those functions. Triggering Mechanism of non-invasive type is an ideal solution. That is the area of our research. This is a complex problem which needs an integrated approach involving medical scientists and technologists for a targeted permanent solution which can help children afflicted with this mental disability.
A neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain that is Autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. The treatment has to be made amenable through a scientific diagnosis involving physiological, psychological and neurological integrated care.
I understand that by proper stimulation of brain, we should be able to regenerate the lost neuron and thereby make the brain function better. Dr. T.R. Raju, NIMHANS has reported that by intra-cranial self stimulation in rats, more neurons get created and it improves the learning ability and faster cure for injuries. Enriched environment is also capable of generating neurons using natural stimulation. Electrical stimulation needs insertion of electrodes in the brain and it can be highly pin-pointed. We have to resolve ethical issues for resorting to this treatment among human beings. We may also try to explore the application of electro-magnetic stimulation non-invasively to stimulate the dormant neurons of the specific brain areas. Use of stem cells, neuronal transplantation and nerve growth factors may also be considered. I suggest intensive research should be carried out in this area for finding early solutions to treat mentally challenged patients through a multi-pronged approach. My research scholar is exploring the above possibilities and we see light on the other side of the tunnel.
Pineal Research - a key to solve many problems
I am happy to know about the initiatives and research activities of NBRC in molecular and cellular neuroscience, developmental neuroscience, neurovirology, systems neuroscience, theoretical neuroscience and computational neuroscience. One of the interesting areas for Indian scientists would be researching the Body-Mind-Spirit connection to understand a large dimension of consciousness. This would involve researching the Pineal Gland or the Pineal System. Philosophically viewed as a "sphincter to control the flow of thought" or "seat of the soul" and scientifically recognized as an active endocrine gland or neuro-endocrine transducer organ, the Pineal involvement in cycles of growth and development during the life span has long been recognized. Pineal holds the key to find out solutions for many health problems. Pineal's influence on other endocrine glands as "a regulator of regulators" and its role in immune response, thermoregulation and mediation of various biological cycles such as regulation of sleep and physiological adaptations to the environment, are being studied. Research indicates that pineal involvement in mental health may go beyond psychosis and that the Pineal plays a significant role in the manifestation of several mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and affective disorders. The link between Pineal dysfunction and suppressed immune response, and its characteristics such as sensitivity to variations in environmental light and electromagnetic influences, are the few areas which need extensive research. I also believe that there is a vast scope for Indian scientists to focus their research activities on the most significant aspect of pineal functioning, that is it's role as the interface of mental and spiritual facets of the self with the physical body.
Global participation in brain research
According to an estimate of World Health Organisation (WHO), brain disorders would be the greatest public health threat in the next few decades to come. A comprehensive human brain project is required to be progressed for tackling different diseases such as depression, sleep disorders, epilepsy, schizophrenia etc. with global participation from many countries. The project should aim at preparing a comprehensive structural and functional map of human brain and facilitate convergence of all activities pertaining to brain research in the Centre. This is indeed a challenging task which requires active participation and effective contribution of research institutions, government agencies, academia and entire medical fraternity.
Incidence of epilepsy in the country is fairly high. Present treatment for epilepsy using surgical or pharmacological control and management of the episodes involves quietening the hyperactive parts of the brain neurons. Is it possible to locate the specific focal point responsible for the seizure through neural imaging by MRI or Positron Emission Tomography (PET)? Scientists working in nano-technology can work with brain researchers to develop a small device which can be implanted in the brain close to the focal point which can buffer spurious high intensity spikes can create a near normal brain function and thereby improve the quality of life of these patients. Can we target specific nano-tracers to the epileptic foci to carry out a similar function? It is a quite challenge which the centre can consider.
Cerebral functions in HIV
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, learning etc. Neuroscientists may need to address the pathophysiology of cerebral dysfunction in HIV positive cases. It will be worthwhile to explore the therapeutic potentials of indigenous systems of medicine including the herbal approach to circumvent the adverse effects of HIV on neuronal functions. This will be possible because of the multidisciplinary networking systems created by NBRC through its worldwide connectivity.
Deriving behavioral and aptitude pattern
The complex nature of brain functioning engulfs in itself answers to many problems that need to be fully understood for human development. The structural and functional mapping of human brain would help in scientific analysis of human behaviour. Through rigorous and extensive research findings, if it becomes possible to analyze behavioral tendencies and derive an inclination or aptitude pattern of a person, especially at an early age, it will help the person to opt for that field or area, for optimum utilization of the human potential and talent. It will also enable early detection of negative emotions and projection of concealed destructive tendencies in a child, which can be dealt by providing various clinical and psychological treatments and ensuring a conducive atmosphere for strong physical and mental growth of the child. Such balanced and healthy development of one's emotional intelligence will lead to evolution of a truly enlightened citizen. Hence I would suggest the Centre to undertake research programme to determine the correlation between clinical data and the performance of individuals in different activities. Such data over a period of time can culminate in evolving a battery of tests which can be used by the schools and social organizations for guiding the children towards their appropriate career path.
I am glad that Nobel Laureate Prof. Torsten Wiesel has come to India for participating in the symposium on "Building the Brain". As you all are aware, his path-breaking contributions in understanding the ability of brain to interpret the code of impulse message from the eyes, provided a deeper insight into information analysis within the visual system and the processes forming the basis for origin of the visual impression. I am sure his achievements and guidance will be inspirational and beneficial to the National Brain Research Centre and the Indian research community as a whole. I am sure many of our researchers would like to consult him on frontier areas of research which they would like to undertake in the Centre.
Healthcare is a necessity for both developing and developed world. This is an area which brings the entire humanity together. I would suggest there should be collaborative clinical research programmes particularly in the area of brain disorders which will promote synergy among the nations leading to emergence of multiple solutions for control and management of the disorders. This will be the greatest service done by this scientific community to the mankind.
My best wishes for fruitful deliberations in the conference and successful endeavour of this Research Centre. I am delighted to inaugurate the National Brain Research Centre in its new campus.