IIT Kanpur’s new cognitive science department to discover remedies for mental health concerns

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, recently announced the launch of a new department of Cognitive Science, which will focus on integrating the knowledge of the human mind with new-age technology.

Understanding the human psyche is becoming fundamental for almost every domain, be it business, media, engineering or social sciences. Some applications of cognitive science include understanding and developing methods for effective learning, remediation for mental-disorders, and development of better user interfaces to be utilised by software companies.

Bishakh Bhattacharya, professor of Department of Mechanical Engineering and current head of the interdisciplinary programme (IDP) in Cognitive Science, IIT Kanpur, tells Education Times, “As we are becoming more dependent on machines, it is crucial to gather a better understanding of the human mind as none of the human-centric innovations are possible through hardcore technical subjects.”

The department aims to prepare students for future careers by bringing together the knowledge repositories in fields as diverse as artificial intelligence (AI), business, data analysis, government intelligence, healthcare, human performance, information processing, law, marketing, product design, and software design.

“Since understanding the human mind will help us know more about cognitive deficits and mental health issues, we will focus on developing tools and products to help those who suffer from such problems. The department’s work will benefit the domains of medical technology and teaching-learning system the most,” Bhattacharya adds.

The initial focus will be on seven specific areas –Consciousness Studies, Perception and Action, Decision Making and Reasoning, Language Processing, Social Cognition, Applied Cognitive Sciences and Robotics.

The institute will offer MS and PhD programmes in Cognitive Science and work in collaboration with the Computer Science and Engineering department to develop new artificially intelligent and machine-learning interfaces. “If the programmes receive ample interest at the undergraduate level, then we may also launch an integrated BTech-MTech programme, which will allow early entry students into interdisciplinary studies and research,” Bhattacharya says.

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