Friday, 13 July 2012

Meet The Marco Polo of Neuroscience - 
Dr. V. S. Ramachandran 

Vilayanur Subramanian Ramachandran, the great Indian Neuroscientist, is best known for his work in the fields of behavioral neurology and psychophysics. He is the Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and is currently a Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Neurosciences Graduate Program at the University of California, San Diego.
Ramachandran is best known for his experiments in behavioral neurology which, despite their apparent simplicity, have generated many new ideas about the workings of the brain. He has been called "The Marco Polo of neuroscience" by Richard Dawkins, a British neurobiologist and "the modern Paul Broca" by Dr. Eric Kandel, an american neuropsychiatrist and Nobel laurate in Medicine. In 1997 Newsweek magazine named him a member of "The Century Club", one of the "hundred most prominent people to watch" in the 21st century, and in 2011 Time listed him as one of "the most influential people in the world" on the "Time 100" list.

Childhood and Career
Born in 1951 in Tamil Nadu, he is the son of Vilayanur Subramanian, an Indian diplomat. As a young man he attended schools in Madras, Bangkok and England and pursued many scientific interests, including conchology. Like many children, when Ramachandran was a young boy, he collected seashells and fossils. Unlike most children, however, he sent his findings to the American Museum of Natural History, often unearthing rarities that were of interest to the museum. He retains an abiding love of palaeontology. Two years ago, he received his most enduring honour: a dinosaur - Minotaurasaurus ramachandrani - was named after him.
Ramachandran obtained an M.B.B.S. from Stanley Medical College in Madras, India. While he was only 20 years of age and in the 2nd year of undergraduation,in 1971, he conducted an experiment to examine how the brain merges the two slightly different images seen by each eye. He wrote a paper on his findings and sent it to "Nature” the world's most prestigious scientific journal, and it was published unrevised. He subsequently obtained a Ph.D. from Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. He was appointed Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of California, San Diego in 1983, and has been a full professor there since 1998.
Ramachandran has studied neurological syndromes to investigate neural mechanisms underlying human mental function. He is best known for his work on neurological syndromes such as phantom limbs, body integrity identity disorder, the invention of the mirror box, and his work on synesthesia. More recently his work has focused on the theoretical implications of mirror neurons and the cause of autism. He has published over 180 papers in worlds prestigious scientific journals. Twenty of these have appeared in Nature, and others have appeared in Science, Nature Neuroscience, Perception and Vision Research. Ramachandran is a member of the editorial board of Medical Hypotheses and has published 15 articles in the same.

Honours and Accolades 
Visiting fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford (1998-1999).
Visiting professor at Stanford University in 2005.
He has received honorary doctorates from Connecticut College (2001) and the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (2004).
Ramachandran received the annual Ramon y Cajal award (2004) from the International Neuropsychiatry Society.
The Ariens-Kappers medal from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences for his contributions to Neuroscience (1999).
He shared the 2005 Henry Dale Prize with Michael Brady of Oxford.
In 2007, the President of India conferred on him the second highest civilian award and honorific title in India, the Padma Bhushan.
In 2008, he was listed as number 50 in the Top 100 Public Intellectuals Poll.
Ramachandran has presented numerous plenary lectures around the world including the Decade of the Brain lecture at the 25th annual (Silver Jubilee) meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (1995), the Jonas Salk Memorial lecture at the Salk Institute, and the Rabindranath Tagore lecture at the Center for the foundations of science in New Delhi.
In 2003 he gave the annual BBC Reith Lectures.
More recently, in 2007 he delivered a public lecture to the Royal Society in London and gave the 2010 IAS Distinguished Lecture at the University of Bristol's Institute of Advanced Studies, dedicated to the memory of his longtime friend and collaborator, Richard Gregory.

Books by Ramachandran
Phantoms in the Brain : Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind, coauthor Sandra Blakeslee.
The Encyclopedia of the Human Brain (editor-in-chief)
The Emerging Mind.
A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness: From Impostor Poodles to Purple Numbers.
The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human.

An often-quoted description, Richard Dawkins, a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author once wrote: "Ramachandran is a latterday Marco Polo, journeying the Silk Road of science to strange and exotic Cathays of the mind.". With his simple, creative and innovative ideas, V.S. Ramachandran is changing how our brains think about our minds.


Dr. Sourya Acharya
Dept. Of Medicine

Dr. Samarth Shukla,

Associate Professor,
Dept. Of Pathology

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