PhD in Science of Consciousness will address mental health problems



Researchers will translate the projects into possible product prototypes for mental health diagnostics and therapies
In 2022, IIT Mandi enrolled the first batch of PhD students for the new subject Science of Consciousness at its Indian Knowledge System (IKS) and Mental Health Applications (IKSHMA) Centre. This is the first of its kind doctoral programme in the subject, which is usually taught as a short-term course in other institutes. The course was introduced after a collaboration with the University of Arizona, to address increasing mental health problems through applications from consciousness studies, yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine research, and other Indian performing arts (like dance, and music).
Speaking to Education Times, Laxmidhar Behera, director, IIT Mandi says, “Science of Consciousness deals with understanding the overpowering effect of the mind over the brain with a scientific approach. In the IKS, the mind consciousness is a Vedantic concept whereas the brain is its subsidiary element. Therefore, there is a need to understand the human mind through yoga, meditation, and state-of-the-art scientific methods.”
Explaining the role of these kinds of undertaken research efforts, Behera adds, “Mental health issues have become quite serious. Western approaches to understanding the mind are at times not effective. However, the IKS offers a fundamental understanding of the mind which can be put to empirical verification. Traditional techniques including yoga, meditation, and ancient dance forms are known to have a very unique healing effect on the mind. In the next 7-8 years, finding a cure, which will not heavily rely on allopathic medication, could be an option, for treating such mild symptoms of mental health issues.”
The selected PhD students come from a diverse variety of academic backgrounds, for instance, Physics, Yogic Science, Bio-Technology, Mathematics, and Computer Science. Highlighting the majority of the approved consciousness research topics, Behera says, “Effective sleep cycle among humans, digital detoxification, and integrative study of body, mind and consciousness are the most popular core topics. Ways to develop translational technology based on IKS interventions for clinical and home-based setups is another crucial area of research work.”
The institute plans to soon establish an IKS wellness centre, where graduating research scholars will be engaged as teachers or translate research into possible product prototypes offering mental health diagnostics, and therapies.
“Students are also working on several cutting-edge topics related to cognitive neuroscience, machine learning, augmented eality, virtual reality, mixed reality, computer vision, and ayurvedic sciences. These students have good career prospects in IKS-related mental health solutions,” adds Behera.