Brains, workshop and a palace!

By Geeny George Shaju, Communications Manager RCUK India.

It’s interesting to note how workshops bring together the best minds; minds that are passionate about their work and want to share their expertise and knowledge. And there is no mind without a brain.

On this occasion it was the Aetiology and life course of substance abuse and relationship with mental illness workshop held by the UK’s Medical Research Council (MRC) – NIMHANS– the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

The workshop was facilitated by RCUK India along with the UK’s Science and Innovation Network and hosted at NIMHANS, Bangalore, from February 26-28, 2014.

Participants were tasked with scoping out potential scientific opportunities for collaboration between the UK and India, researchers from both countries discussed various aspects of addictive disorders and their relation with mental health.

In short it was brains working for the wellbeing of brains!

You see NIHMANS is a brain bank, the only one in India, and is a repository of human brain tissue available for research. NIMHANS organised a tour of the bank for all the delegates, which offered a perfect venue for some cerebral discussions.

I may have felt like bird brain being among the experts but I showed I had the stomach for it – see the picture below!

Brains at NIMHANS Brain Bank

Brains at NIMHANS Brain Bank

Leading researchers, from the Universities of Oxford, Liverpool, Bristol, Exeter, Imperial College and King’s College London represented the UK, along with Indian researchers from All India Institute of Medical Sciences Delhi, Central Institute of Psychiatry Ranchi, Lokopriya Gopinath Bordoloi Regional Institute of Mental Health Tezpur, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research Chandigarh, Regional Institute of Medical Sciences Manipur, Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital Delhi and several from NIMHANS.

The workshop focused on three main topics:

  1. Differences in trajectories of endophenotypes
  2. Effects of environmental influences
  3. Reciprocal relationships between substance use and other mental health conditions
(L-R) Dr Louisa Rahemtulla, Dr Mark Palmer from MRC, Prof Huge Perry from University of Southampton, Dr Mathew Varghese from NIMHANS, Dr DK Shukla and Dr Harpreet Sandhu from ICMR at the plenary session summarizing the discussions at the workshop

(L-R) Dr Louisa Rahemtulla, Dr Mark Palmer from MRC, Prof Huge Perry from University of Southampton, Dr Mathew Varghese from NIMHANS, Dr DK Shukla and Dr Harpreet Sandhu from ICMR at the plenary session summarizing the discussions at the workshop

The discussions highlighted great enthusiasm to collaborate from both sides, with some excellent opportunities for partnership.

For my own grey matter these discussion may be too technical, but the fact is these discussions are an effort to keep mental health intact, especially that of the younger generation and the world around it. At this workshop, I realised that research transcends geographical territories. The UK and India have a wealth of expertise, facilities and a rich socio-cultural diversity that offers a great opportunity to develop world-class collaborations For the mutual benefit of both countries.

Deliberations gave way to some interesting areas where the UK and India could partner up including cohort studies, capacity building and scholar exchange.

And what started as a scoping workshop came to a promising conclusion, with both MRC and ICMR officials agreeing to explore areas of joint activities. Soon after the workshop, the UK delegates set off to Mysore, 140kms from Bangalore on a cultural excursion to take in a bit more of incredible India.

UK researchers interacting with young faculty/researchers at a poster session at NIHMANS

UK researchers interacting with young faculty/researchers at a poster session at NIHMANS

We visited the famous Mysore Palace and Chamundi Hills and temple and even found time to explore local cuisine, shop for spices and silk scarves.                                                                   

The city of Mysore resonates how both the countries go back in time to share history, culture, development and exchange. The beautiful palace is an amalgamation of rich European (particularly British) art work, mosaic and tiles.

The Royal Family of Mysore set up the first Hydro Electric Project in 1902, and also that Bangalore was the first city in India to get electric street lights in 1905.

So much to see, know and learn – all for mental health!

Chamundi Temple

Chamundi Temple

UK delegates outside the Mysore Palace

UK delegates outside the Mysore Palace

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  1. Following lives – a guest post from the FCO Science & Innovation Network | The CLOSER blog - May 8, 2014

    […] In the last few months, I have learnt quite a lot about cohort studies in humans. Especially during the last two workshops that we had organised with partner organisations – one on ‘Ageing‘ and the other on ‘Mental Health‘.  […]

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