Number 7

Spring 2000


Neuropsychology in India Many Challenges with Great Potential

By Kailash Tuli, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychology

49-A, SFS (DDA) Flats, Motia Khan

UNIVERSITY OF DELHI (ZHC) New Delhi- I 10 055, INDIA TEL 91.11.751.4336


India is a huge country, with a staggering population of one thousand million people packed within a density of 327 persons per square kilometer. The average per capita GNP is $37OUS per year. In this highly diverse country about 350 million people live in poverty.

Health care and education is a matter of an individual's economic position in the community. Since India’s independence in 1947 it has been a dream that there would be good health care for all citizens by the year 2000, but this is now a mirage still awaiting realization.

Health standards have remained far below expectations. Psychiatry and Psychology do not enjoy any worthy position in academia, health care or general practice. The total number of qualified psychiatrists is less than 2000 and psychologists are not more than I 000. Neuropsychology is not common. This discipline is only a subdiscipline of Physiological Psychology mainly in universities and research institutions. The main center for Neuropsychology in India is the National Institute of Mental Health and the Allied Neurological Sciences. There are very few university departments in Neuropsychology.

Despite this profile, there is a great potential for research in this branch of knowledge. Some suggested areas are as follows:

About 35% of the Indian population live under the basic poverty line and barely survive in sub-human conditions resulting in chronic damage to their neurological and behavioral functioning. This needs humane applied research especially aimed at treatment and remedies of the unfortunate psychological damages to these downtrodden persons.

In India there are many acts of Nature and human errors, that result in traumatic neuropsychological and psychological impairments to children and adults. To research the causes and outcomes of these damaged and desperate persons would be a definite contribution.


Post-Traumatic stress disorders are a common phenomenon, but there is hardly any evidence that the sufferers from violence, war, accidents, and other natural or man made tragedies are given any psychological or neuropsychological diagnostic or treatment services.

India is also known for various spiritual practices like Yoga, Meditation, Tantaric and Occultism. These are very unique phenomenon and need more neuropsychological research to authenticate their reliability and validity. There is need for empirical and rigorous scientific and experimental research in these areas. In-depth study with good research design and instrumentation would help understand this "mystical knowledge" and help determine the scientific facts and usefulness putting it in a modern scientific terminology. This would hopefully separate the useful from the purely mystical.

With the media boom in recent years, India has also been exposed to a broad range and variety of information especially within the middle and upper strata of society. Films and Television serials in India depict a lot of violence, that may result in problems. This flooding of information and the type of information needs to be researched to understand it's impact upon the minds and behaviors of the recipients. The lack of physical activity associated with excessive time spent watching films and television may have a negative effect upon the health and psychology of the people involved. This needs to be researched.

India's achievements in the arena of competitive sports remains very poor as compared to the general world population. Why? What is the cause of this poor competitive performance? Perhaps, research within neuropsychology could help answer this question.

As with other parts of the world, India has its share of criminal, anti-social disorders, and chemical dependency. Persons with these problems receive some control and care through some voluntary and governmental organizations, but neuropsychological research is needed to better understand the cause, effects, and the appropriate prevention, treatments, and rehabilitation.

Obviously in a such a huge nation there are many cross-cultural segments and issues. In India you can see all possible shades of people from different religions, economic