S&T Ministry supports solutions for mental health challenges like Alzheimer & Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and dementia are serious and escalating health concern around the globe and is projected to affect the lives of 5 million people around the globe by 2020 and 14 million people by 2050. The Department of Science and Technology is committed to bring relief for Alzheimer’s disease & dementia which are major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide.

Department of Science & Technology (DST) through Cognitive Science Research Initiative (CSRI) is working towards better solutions for mental disorders like Alzheimer & Dementia through various early detections methods, psychological interventions, better therapies and rehabilitation programmes.

Cognitive Science research includes emotions, language, memory, visual perception and cognition, thinking & reasoning, social cognition, decision making, artificial intelligence, computational modeling of cognitive processes, psychology, cognitive development and other important components derived from work in neurosciences, philosophy, linguistics, anthropology, etc.

Institutions like AIIMS, NBRC & so on working on related R&D Projects

 DST supports research on early detection and interventions in various institutes like AIIMS, NBRC, NIMHANS, JNU and so on for research on mental disorders like Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Some of the institutions have come out with technology that is helping early detection of the disease and suitable interventions.

A collaborative study by National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) and All India Institute of Medical Sciences has developed a method of predicting Alzheimer’s disease by monitoring the quantity of a molecule called glutathione in the brain.

Glutathione is an antioxidant which cal help repair cell damage. The team found that reduced glutathione concentrations in the parietal cortical region (at the back of the brain where the skull bulges) can help predict Alzheimer’s disease. Regular quantification of glutathione in the brain can help detect a potential AD patient much before the onset of the disease using a non-invasive technique called Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS).

They have also prepared a one-of-its-kind database of brain images that, when compiled together, could result in a so-called Indian Brain Template (IBT).  

This template, to be constructed from a composite of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans from 150 adult Indians, can be of great help for researchers who based their study so far on their knowledge of intricate brain anatomy of Caucasian models.

The team has also developed complete and integrated software that could help early diagnosis of mental health problems. The software can quantify a brain neurochemical called γ-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) through neuroimaging of brain metabolites using Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS).

Titled KALPANA, the software allows visualization and single-click processing of MRS data acquired using a variety of methods. With the incorporation of premade end-to-end processing workflows for a variety of data and use of algorithms that enable accurate estimation of chemical concentrations from the signal and a graphical interphase for its easy interpretation, the software offers distinct clinical scope. Several such Multi-institutional Mega Projects are providing better understanding of neurodegenerative diseases and their therapeutics and finding solutions for a range of mental health problems like depression, recognition system of autistic children and so on.

Post Doctoral Fellowships building capacity of researchers in the field

In order to attract young talents to mental health, support is being provided in the form of two years 'Post Doctoral Fellowship' Programme. The Scheme provides Opportunities to Young Scientists for pursuing innovative research in frontier areas of Cognitive Science, nurture excellence in the area and boost research in the subject.

Awareness on the issue being created through trainings, workshops, and conferences

The CSRI programme extends partial support for organizing conferences, seminars, symposia, training programmes and workshops. Support is provided to Academic or Research Institutions, Universities and other Professional bodies to encourage young researchers and keep scientific community abreast of the latest developments in various areas of Cognitive Science.

Thursday, September 20, 2018