IIT-Madras launches Center for Computational Brain Research

IIT-Madras faculty and alumnus on the research centre launch. (Representational image)

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras inaugurated Center for Computational Brain Research (CCBR) today, May 20, 2019 (Monday) at Bhupat and Jyothi Mehta School of Biosciences on the campus. This dedicated workspace will house researchers and staff of the CCBR.

The CCBR is dedicated to the study of understanding the inner workings of the brain and using these basic principles to further enhance computer science. In this field of study, there are three chair-professors, namely, Partha Mitra from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, USA, Mriganka Sur from MIT, USA and Anand Raghunathan from Purdue University, USA. The center is funded by the IIT Madras alumnus Kris Gopalakrishnan.

The goal of CCBR is to explore the interface between neuroscience and engineering disciplines. A two-way interaction is envisaged, where an understanding of the brain can help drive significant technological advances, and in turn, engineering tools can help analyze and probe neural circuits.

Further, Prof Vijay Raghavan, IIT-Madras added, There must be a bottom-up demand for research. We must have a mass movement that appreciates the uncertainty of research and the need for research. This is what happens in other countries. One of the largest foundations in the U.K. that funds research is itself funded by contributions of one or two pounds given by the citizens. Science should not only be for the people but also by and of the people.

Speaking about the work underway at CCBR, Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthi said, The CCBR was conceived of and funded by Kris Gopalakrishnan. Its Annual workshops have been going on very well, attracting top people in the field who have been interacting with IIT Madras students. We plan to build a large human brain imaging facility and we are building our own equipment for this purpose. Within five years, we will come out with some really good results and new knowledge that will be noticed and give a good fillip to our students who gain exposure to some state-of-the-art research.

Providing an overview of the research underway at CCBR, Prof Partha Mitra said, Work currently done by the center includes development and application of data analytic and informatics tools for exploring brain structure and function. The center collaborates with other institutions across the world including Johns Hopkins University-USA, Harvard Medical School-USA, The University of Melbourne- Australia, KTH- Sweden, in addition to the host institutions of the Chair Professors.

Future goals of CCBR include research activities to map human brain connectivity architecture at light microscopic resolution and the development of a brain-inspired neuromorphic chip for efficient computing. CCBR also intends to provide training and guidance to future engineer-neuroscientists in India. Towards this goal, it has started a winter course on Machine Intelligence and Brain Research, which is currently being offered to IIT Madras students for credit. CCBR is currently planning to expand this to an online course that is accessible to a broader audience.