The Centre for Cognitive and Brain Sciences @ IIT Gandhinagar: unraveling secrets of the mind

“The cognitive sciences have replaced literature as the way many people attempt to understand their own minds” — David Brooks, famous political and cultural commentator who writes for The New York Times

When IIT Gandhinagar became the first IIT in India to start the M.Sc. programme in Cognitive Science back in 2013, Prof. Jaison Manjaly (Associate Professor, Humanities and former Dean of Student Affairs) said, “IITGN would like to establish itself as one of the centres of excellence in cognitive science, which is accepted as one of the four pillars of knowledge of 21st century along with nanotechnology, biotechnology and information technology.”

This vision was able to acquire a successful tangible form as a result of continuous efforts and out-of-the box initiatives taken by distinguished faculty, staff and students of this Institute. Today, we have what is known as the Centre for Cognitive and Brain Sciences (CCBS) as one of the seven unique interdisciplinary research centres established with the aim of enhancing conversations across traditional disciplines. This kind of dialogue pushes the frontiers of knowledge production and innovation in a way that is impossible when one is exposed to a single discipline only.

The CCBS houses fully equipped world-class laboratory facilities promoting high-quality cutting-edge research. With its PhD, M.Sc. and Minor programmes, the Centre offers numerous opportunities to explore diverse domains such as Mind Perception, Curiosity, Consciousness, Attention, Affective Computing, Motor Control, Movement Disorders, Brain Lateralisation, Decision-making, Neuroinformatics, Reinforcement Learning, Mild Cognitive Impairment, Dementia, Serious Gaming and Road Safety. Numerous distinguished faculty, including the visiting faculty and scholars-in-residence, 12 PhD and 31 M.Sc. students are currently a part of this growing family.

The Centre conducts many conferences, workshops, sessions and talks throughout the year to expose the students to the latest happenings and breakthrough inventions in the field. Several students have been selected to pursue internships and higher studies at renowned universities across the globe through DAAD fellowships, The New School summer research internships, Fulbright scholarships, CSRI postdoctoral fellowships, Shastri Research Student Fellowship, etc. and several others have been offered jobs in leading companies like Human Centric Systems Research Group (R&D unit) of TCS.

June 4–6th witnessed a Summer Workshop in Biomechanics and Neuroscience of Human Motion for undergrad and masters’ students organised by the CCBS. It covered basic applications such as robotics and rehabilitation and explained how to capture human motion data and analyse it, thus serving as a great launchpad for students into the rich field of the study of human motion.

On 12th-13th July 2019, professors Pratik Mutha, Jaison Manjaly, Krishna Prasad and Leslee Lazar visited the Whistling Woods International Institute of film, communication and creative arts. Started by the famous Indian film director, producer and screenwriter Subhash Ghai, it is one of the top film schools in the world and the best film institute in India. The IIT Gandhinagar faculty taught different modules on basic neuroscience, design and aesthetics which would promote students in acting-line to bring out emotions in their most effective form!

“This Centre is unique in the way it brings together a heterogenous batch of people. Think about the wide variety of ideas and discussions possible when engineers, psychologists, biologists, sociologists, economists and physicists work together! We understand that the study of the brain requires a multi-faceted approach and, therefore, incorporating such a diverse group of students is the true strength of CCBS,” said Goldy Yadav, a PhD student and recipient of Fulbright scholarship 2019

Through its interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary interactions, CCBS strives to develop ingenious solutions in the fields of education, health care, social behavior and technological development while leveraging inputs from cutting-edge developments in brain science. The center has already evolved into a vibrant hub for an exchange of ideas where everyone can learn, innovate, explore and contribute their fair share in unraveling the mysteries of the mind…

(This is the seventh and last article of the series about the 7 interdisciplinary centres @ IIT Gandhinagar. The sixth article can be found here.)

Avid Writer by Passion|Ph.D. student (HSS-SciComm), IIT Gandhinagar|Sr.Project Associate, ExtComm(2019-20), IITGN|MTech(BioEngg)-Institute Gold Medalist, IITGN.