News Science & Technology


Written by Talent KAS


  • Researchers at the IIIT Hyderabad have created the first ever Indian Brain Atlas (IBA).
  • Construction of the Indian human brain atlas was done in collaboration with the Department of Imaging Sciences and Interventional Radiology, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram.

What is a Brain Atlas?

  • A brain atlas is composed of serial sections along different anatomical planes of the healthy or diseased developing or adult animal or human brain where each relevant brain structure is assigned a number of coordinates to define its outline or volume.
  • It helps researchers compare findings from different brain imaging methods like Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and functional MRI (fMRI), or between healthy and diseased brain states, or across individuals.

The Project

  • The first attempt by the IIITH team at creating an Indian-specific brain atlas involved 50 subjects, evenly balanced out across genders.
  • MRI scans of these subjects’ brains were taken at three different hospitals across three different scanners to rule out variations found in scanning machines.
  • Emboldened by the results of the pilot study, the team went on to recruit 100 willing participants in the eventual construction of the Indian Brain Atlas, referred to as IBA 100.

Findings of the Study

  • The constructed altas was validated against the other atlases available for various populations.
  • According to the ‘Indian Brain Atlas’, the average Indian brain is smaller in height, width, and volume as compared to the western (MNI) and eastern population like the Chinese and Korean.
  • These differences are found even at the structure level, such as in the volume of the hippocampus and so on.
  • But overall, the IBA 100 is more comparable to the Chinese and Korean atlases than the distant Caucasian one (MNI).

Need for Indian Brain Atlas

  • Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) and International Consortium for Brain Mapping (ICBM) had created the world’s first digital human brain atlas in 1993.
  • It had also released other brain atlases, widely used as a standard in neuroscience studies.
  • However, these ‘standard’ brain templates were created using Caucasian brains and are not ideal to analyse brain differences from other ethnicities such as the Indian population.
  • The idea of building Indian brain atlas came from a neuro-radiologist at the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute.
  • MNI template is typically loaded in the MRI scanning machines.
  • MRI images taken are compared with the pre-loaded MNI template to arrive at a diagnosis, and are likely to lead to an incorrect diagnosis.
  • While even Chinese and Korean brain templates had been constructed, there was no corresponding template constructed for the Indian-specific population.


  • There are many changes that take place in a brain due to advancing age, with the most typical one being atrophy which means shrinking of structures as it happens in the case of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
  • In the case of dementia or Alzheimer’s, they are associated with atrophy of the hippocampus.
  • To understand this better, researchers are collecting MRI scans to create brain atlases for different age groups, like 20-30, 30-40, 40-50 and 50-60.
  • This will be beneficial to track the brain and see how it ages over time and in the long run understand dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s etc.
[Source: The Hindu, India Today]


About the author

Talent KAS