Did people who made-up the term 'pea-sized' brain have Indians in mind when they coined the term, figuratively? A first-ever study on Indian brain Atlas has led to a fascinating find which concludes that Indian race have smaller brains in comparison to that of Western and eastern populace. This new finding which was an initiative of the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (IIIT-H) revealed that the Indian brain, on an average, is smaller in height, width and volume.
The smaller size of the brain may however help in early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other brain-related ailments, the study adds. 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, is not the measuring rod 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.”
In addition to (MNI) template, Jayanthi adds that even Chinese and Korean brain templates had been constructed, but there was no corresponding template for the India-specific population.
“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.
“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.
“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 also added that this will help in diagnosing dementia or Alzheimers as they are associated with atrophy of the hippocampus, Jayanthi who is on a further mission to understand the process of aging concludes.