Amrita, the first Indian University to join the European Union’s Human Brain Project

Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham has become the first Indian University to partner with European Union’s Human Brain Project that has 143 University institutes in Europe working together to understand brain function and develop solutions to better understand and cure brain diseases.

Functional signals directed by magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques are widely used in specialty hospitals and advanced clinics to monitor brain activity noninvasively. However, to connect these signals to the underlying activity of brain cells or neurons has been a challenge.

In this project called “BOLDsim“, Amrita School of Biotechnology’s Dr. Shyam Diwakar and team will develop a new computational tool for modeling functional signals in the brain using cellular data-driven models. The collaborators for this phase will be University of Pavia in Italy and Aix-Marseille University in France coordinated by Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. A memorandum of understanding was signed between Amrita and EPFL towards working together on this project. This project will be part of the HBP’s EBRAINS infrastructure, has been created by the EU-funded Human Brain Project, and offers an extensive portfolio of brain data, scientific services, digital tools and computing resources for researchers and industry.

This BOLDsim project, as part of a HBP voucher grant, will model the special signals generated by braina ctivity called the blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signals, using cellular-level data available in the HBP’s Brain Simulation Platform (BSP) and from the team of Prof. Egidio D’Angelo of University of Pavia in Italy and will be made available for neuroscience researchers to use freely and for the whole-brain simulator “The Virtual Brain” (TVB) being developed at Aix-Marseille University, France. Modeling will allow experts a clearer look to precisely understand how brain conditions manifest and to point changes in neural circuits during certain healthy and disease conditions as seen in patients.

Amrita Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Venkat Rangan adds “I am very happy that Amrita has become the first Indian University to partner with the Human Brain Project and will model a simulator for understanding brain conditions and model brain function. We view ourselves at Amrita as a research-intensive institution that has over the last 15 years established more than 180 collaborations with the top 500 world-ranked universities. Now this MoU with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland and HBP partners, University of Pavia in Italy and Aix-Marseille University in France, Amrita will add a new dimension to our cutting edge neuroscience research as well”.

Amrita’s Dr. Shyam Diwakar says ” Neuroscientists often want to understand health and disease in the brain, spinal cord and its circuits from both cellular and behavioral levels to correctly map how a disease affects a person. Since 2009, we, at Amrita,  have been developing models of cerebellum, how its signals are affected during conditions and have been using experimental data and computer simulations to develop better understanding of how brains operate. This HBP project “BOLDsim” will enhance the usability of our computer models and scale a new dimension towards assessing brain health while making what was previously impossible to identify.”

This project will also allow a new understanding of how brain computes in addition to being used as medical prediction models. The HBP project will run until 2023 although a first level stage is expected to be completed by October 2021.



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