Indians have smaller brains, says India's first ever Brain Atlas created by IIIT- Hyderabad.

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Researchers at the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (IIIT-H), have created the first-ever Indian Brain Atlas .The study has revealed that the Indian brain, on an average, is smaller in height, width and volume when compared to Western and other Eastern populations. This will help in better/early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other brain-related ailments. These differences are found even at the structure level like the volume of hippocampus and so on. But overall, the ‘IBA 100 is more’ comparable to the Chinese and Korean atlases than the distant Caucasian one, according to the research team led by professor from the Centre for Visual Information Technology Jayanthi Sivaswamy.

The Team Work :-

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.

The research has been published in Neurology India , a peer-reviewed journal.

Jayanthi Sivaswamy of the Centre for Visual Information Technology, who worked on the project, said that the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) template, which is used as the standard, was created using Caucasian brains. This, according to the researchers, was not ideal to analyse brain differences in the Indian population.

“As Indian brains are smaller in size when compared to MNI, the difference in scans can look alarming and lead to misdiagnosis,” Jayanthi told TOI. She added that MRI images are compared with pre-loaded MNI template to arrive at a diagnosis. “There is clear evidence based on the study that it is desirable to build a larger atlas as it is important to understand structurally what is normal. This would help catch several brain conditions early on.”

Jayanthi said that even Chinese and Korean brain templates had been constructed, but there was no corresponding template for the India-specific population. She said that the first attempt by the IIIT-H team at creating an India-specific atlas involved 50 individuals, 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 in scanning machines. Emboldened by the results of the pilot study, we went on to recruit 100 willing participants in the eventual construction of the atlas, referred to as IBA 100,” she added.

Speaking of the motivation behind the project, Dr. Sivaswamy says, “I’ve been working on medical imagery for a while now. And we know medical images play a big role in diagnosis. The idea of building our own Indian brain atlas came from a neuro-radiologist at the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute. He was remarking that it is the MNI template that comes typically loaded in the MRI scanning machines, leaving us bereft of normative information.” MRI images taken are compared with the pre-loaded MNI template to arrive at a diagnosis, and likely to lead to a misdiagnosis. While even Chinese and Korean brain templates had been constructed, there was no corresponding template constructed for the Indian-specific population. 

Jayanthi said that the atlas was validated against other atlases for various populations. “These differences in height, width, and volume are found even at the structural level, such as in the volume of the hippocampus and so on. But overall, IBA 100 is more comparable with Chinese and Korean atlases than the distant Caucasian one (MNI),” she said.

She added that her team was currently focussing on understanding the aging process. “There are many changes that take place in a brain due to advancing age, with the most typical one being atrophy, shrinking of structures,” she added and said that this would help in diagnosing dementia or Alzheimers as they are associated with atrophy of the hippocampus.



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