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Neuro science

Brainy breed

He's been called "Marco Polo of neuro science" and the "modern Paul Broca. " Vilayanur Subramanian Ramachandran, "Rama" to his friends and peers, has mapped the most mysterious regions of the mind, enabling us to understand the functions of the human brain: Why do we laugh? How and why do we appreciate art? VSR is best known for his experiments in behavioral neurology, including developing a therapy for phantom-limb pain in which a mirror is used to reflect the intact limb, creating the illusion that the missing one is still there. That persuades the brain that all is well.

Legatee of a distinguished family - his grandfather Sri Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer was a stalwart of the Indian constitution, and his father Vilayanur Subramanian was a UN diplomat - VSR graduated from Chennai's Stanley Medical College before going to Trinity College at the University of Cambridge for his Ph. D. He then went to Caltech in US as a research fellow before moving in 1983 to what remains his home since - University of California, San Diego where he is something of a legend.

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".

What is most appealing about VSR is his ability to convey esoteric concepts in simple terms - with a dose of collegiate humor - which make him a popular speaker at talkfests like TED. Not surprisingly, his first book Phantoms in the Brain formed the basis for a two part series on BBC Channel 4 TV (UK) and a onehour PBS special in the USA. His most recent work The Tell-Tale Brain, which describes several neurological case studies that illustrate how people see, speak, conceive beauty and perceive themselves and their bodies, won a best non-fiction award even in his home country where he is little-known outside scientific circles.

An avid collector of shells and fossils as a kid, he developed an interest in paleontology, resulting in a signal honor couple of years back - a dinosaur skull fossil he found in the Gobi desert was named Minotaurasaurus Ramachandrani after him.

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