Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Dr Vipin Srivastava, Professor at the School of Physics, Centre for Neural and Cognitive Sciences: And now mathematicians and physicists to research on brain modelling

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Brain research now gets a mathematical touch. With
biologists not keen on “modelling” the brain, mathematicians and
physicists have stepped in to find out answers to basic questions like
how the brain learns, makes and stores memories.

Though biologists have studied certain functions of the brain, they
are still clueless on how the brain stores memories and recalls them
when needed. This is because that is no mathematical modelling of the
brain, which will help among other things in finding answers to a
number of complex issues related to the brain including diseases like
Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“Mathematical modeling is central to building theories (understanding
of mechanisms) for natural phenomena. Our aim is to understand the
mechanisms involved in various functions of the brain so that we can

understand why certain disorders happen in the brain and then work towards
finding their remedies and corrections,” said Dr Vipin Srivastava, Professor
at the School of Physics, and the Centre for Neural and Cognitive Sciences (CNCS),
University of Hyderabad.

Dr Srivastava is holding the first-ever school (training programme) on
computational and theoretical neuroscience in the city from December 5
to 21 to train young scientists in mathematical and computational
skills to conduct fundamental research in neuroscience. It would also
touch upon issues like brain disorders and neuroprosthesis. The
International Brain Research Organisation (IBRO) and UNESCO are the
main funding agencies for the event. Dr Joby Joseph, a reader at the
CNCS, is the co-organiser of the school.

“It is a unique effort as it deals with use of mathematics, physics
and computer
science to study neuroscience. There is a serious dearth of scientists
the world over who have background in engineering or formal sciences
like physics, mathematics, and computer science, and wish to address
problems in neuroscience. Our programme will give impetus to
computational and theoretical research in neuroscience in our
country,” Dr Srivastava added.

The understanding of the fundamentals of neural basis of normal and
disease conditions of the brain is still so thin that scientists are
almost groping in dark to search for solutions to these issues. The
school will increase awareness amongst young students of engineering
and formal sciences like mathematics and physics, etc. that they can
contribute crucially to the field of neuroscience, and thus attract
them into this fascinating area of research, he pointed out.

About 20 eminent neuroscientists from different parts of the world
will lecture at the school. They include secretary-general of IBRO
Pierre Magistretti, Nitish Thakor of John Hopkins and NUS, Tadaharu
Tsumoto of Brain Science Institute, RIKEN, Japan, Kenji Doya of
Okinawa Institute in Japan, Juan Lerma of Institute of Neuroscience in
Spain and Govindan Rangarajan of IISc Bangalore.

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