Some say life is about choices, and to be human is to make choices in a way that sometimes defies logic. Call it intuition or instinct, there is often more than meets the eye. Such choices are what make humans human, and Christian Ruff has committed his career to uncovering the inner workings of human decision making. This is human brain mapping near the “outer limits”.
Jean Chen (JC): It’s very exciting that your research embodies a tangible way in which neuroimaging could have social impact outside of medical and biological research. Can you outline for us what path led you into this field?
Christian Ruff (CR): Since my early undergraduate days, I have always been interested in why we behave the way we do, and why there are individual differences in this respect. The brain was the obvious place to look for the answer, and I started my research with clinical neuropsychology in psychiatric patients. While I found it fascinating to get to the bottom of each patient’s cognitive deficits and help patients cope with them, I came upon the impression that many of the deficits reflected idiosyncratic inabilities to cope with the test situation itself, rather than impairments in specific neuro-cognitive functions. I therefore switched to cognitive neuroimaging of executive control and reasoning in healthy, high-functioning participants, using experimental paradigms and models from cognitive psychology, cognitive science, and psychophysics. I continue to be excited about how this approach can identify brain activity that “physically“ corresponds to well-formed predictions from models of cognitive processes. Some nagging concerns as to whether the identified brain activity really controls the behaviour or simply reflects behaviour can be addressed by combining brain stimulation methods with the imaging. However, after some years of using this approach, I again felt that what I was studying did not reflect the neurobiological reasons for why participants behave the way they do. After all, in my experiments, I always told the participants what they should do, rather than letting them choose this for themselves as they would do in real life. This realization came at the time when decision neuroscience started to emerge, based on a cross-fertilization between behavioral economics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive neuroscience. The central idea of this approach immediately made sense to me - that we need to observe free choices with real-life consequences in order to understand and model the processes driving behaviour. I started to combine this conceptual approach with the neuroscience tools and concepts I had acquired in the time before, and have not regretted doing it ever since.
JC: The title of your OHBM 2017 keynote lecture is “Multiple brain systems for decision making”. Without imparting too much, can you comment on whether you think at this time human decision-making can be reasonably replicated using mathematical models?
CR: Within the limited scope of the tasks we use to study different aspects of decision-making, I think we are pretty good at capturing human choices with mathematical models. If we gave people choices between options that differ on a clearly defined dimension, we could for example replicate how a given individual chooses between options with different risky payoffs, how he/she chooses between options with smaller immediate or larger long-term payoffs, how much he/she chooses to maximise her own self-interest or to help others, and so forth. Where we are still limited is in our understanding of how these different facets of decision-making are triggered, weighted, and integrated in real life. For example, if you think of a typical choice situation from your recent past, it would be very hard or impossible for models to recognize by themselves whether your choice should be driven by concerns for risk, temporal aspects of the outcomes, or the consequences of your actions for other people (or combinations of these). We clearly need to make major advances on that front to start to truly understand and simulate human choices.
JC: Why do concepts from economics factor into your research on decision-making?
CR: If we want to understand something as complex as human decision-making, we cannot afford to ignore any sources of information on it. I therefore pay attention to all disciplines that have come up with ways to study decision-making. They all have strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Cognitive Psychology has developed well-controlled experiments that account for many different types of perceptual and cognitive limitations, but that may sometimes be too artificial to capture real-life behaviour. Behavioral economics is the opposite: It employs experiments that are close models of real-life decisions but that may sometimes not account properly for the participant’s perceptual and cognitive limitations. I try to combine these approaches, hopefully pooling their strengths. Apart from experimental approaches, economics provides interesting mathematical models that conceptualize choice behaviour as cost-benefit trade-offs. These models can be fruitfully linked with neuroscience models of how the brain processes and resolves conflict, helping us understand the neurobiological basis of behaviour in many different types of choice situations.
JC: Can you give some examples of how findings from your research could be applied in everyday life?
CR: Our research is basic science and is not designed to lead to direct applications. However, I hope it can provide inspiration or stepping stones for applied research. For instance, we have shown that brain stimulation of a specific area in the lateral prefrontal cortex makes people comply more with social norms, but only if they know that another human being may sanction them for violating the norm (by deducting money, similar to a fine). The stimulation had no effect when the same monetary sanction was issued by a computer. This shows that the type of norm compliance controlled by these processes may be much more sensitive to the projected social consequences of norm violations than to the purely material consequences. Thus, in situations whereby it is required to prevent violations of specific social norms, it may be more helpful to provide collective social feedback rather than to slap a monetary fine on offenders. However, concrete policy recommendations in this respect would of course require further applied studies.
JC: What do you think is the most exciting body of work coming out of your lab in the past 5 years?
CR: I am excited about all the research we do, but it appears that there are two major lines of work for which we get most feedback from the community and the public. One of these employs brain stimulation combined with imaging to understand our brains, which functions through processes dedicated to complex, uniquely human social behaviors. Until now, we have found evidence for such processes in the domains of norm compliance, honesty, and strategic social behaviour. The second line of work identifies generic neural computations that underlie both preference-based and perceptual decisions. These types of behaviours have traditionally been studied in isolation, but our work shows that there are shared neural-choice computations and shared principles of how both types of information are processed. This is important as it helps us understand how the brain can flexibly combine affective and perceptual information to control actions.
JC: How do you foresee the evolution of your research program for the next 5 years? 10 years?
CR: I hope to be able to merge the two lines of work mentioned above. Even though our brain appears to contain dedicated processes for social behaviour, we usually effortlessly combine social considerations with perceptual and preference-based information to take decisions. I therefore plan to model and study in much more detail to what degree abstract social information is processed during decision-making in ways that can be integrated with basic sensory and affective information. This will require unifying the separate computational models that have emerged in these different domains, understanding a lot more about their correspondence to both metabolic and electrophysiological measures of neural function, and establishing possible causal relationships. I also hope to tackle the question about individual differences more directly, by going back to my roots and investigating whether behavioural symptoms of psychiatric disorders may reflect disruptions in the neural choice processes identified in our research.
JC: Do you feel that the current neuroimaging methods are sufficient for achieving your goals? If not, how do you hope they can improve?
CR: I think no-one disputes that all of our current neuroimaging methods are limited. It is sometimes frustrating that we have to combine several techniques just to get a low-resolution glimpse of the location, timing, and causal role of neural processes. In the fantasy world, all these aspects would be covered by a single non-obtrusive method. Since this is probably not going to happen, I feel pretty comfortable addressing my questions with the present multi-modal neuroimaging and stimulation approach. The biggest limitation here is that the current brain stimulation and electrophysiological methods are largely limited to the cortical surface. This prevents us from fully integrating them with fMRI and from addressing many interesting questions. I have mild hope that this may change in the future, but do not want to be overly optimistic.
JC: Can you provide two pieces of advice to new/emerging/aspiring scientists?
CR: My first advice – at the danger of sounding cliché – is to follow your own instincts and passions when choosing the fields and questions you want to study. What matters is that you find a question fascinating - not whether it is en vogue, low-hanging fruit, certain to get you a grant, or the favour of a supervisor. Life is too short for studies targeting questions that you do not care about. Such studies are unlikely to keep you motivated and therefore will get neither you nor our knowledge anywhere.
My second advice is to value other people’s criticism of your work and use it to move forward. We have a tendency to become very defensive about our ideas and studies, which is understandable given the hard work necessary to develop them. However, this tendency can prevent us from truly listening and taking on board valuable information about whether and how other people understand our work. This is what ultimately matters for your science! Thus, a paper rejection with good comments can ultimately be more valuable than a clean acceptance, and a talk that triggers a heated and confrontational discussion can benefit you more than a muted applause without any questions.
BY NIKOLA STIKOV
Alan Evans is a natural storyteller. He has been with the OHBM since its very beginning, and he has the stories to show for it. We spent a pleasant afternoon in his office at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI), talking about the turbulent early days of the organization, peeling off the hidden layers of brain imaging, and wading through his memorabilia collection, which he affectionately calls ‘the little shop of horrors’. The central place in this collection is reserved for an old military helmet, which is only one of the many hats that Alan has worn for the society.
Nikola Stikov (NS): What is the story behind the helmet?
Alan Evans (AE): Well, throughout the 80s my contemporaries and I were going to five, six, seven different conferences in a given year, each covering different aspects of what interested us. Soon it became clear that we wanted our own community, so Bernard Mazoyer volunteered to organize the first OHBM meeting in Paris. Back then there was this big debate on whether we should call ourselves a society or an organization, because some people wanted to keep us paired with other existing societies, such as CBFM (Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism). This debate rumbled on from the very first meeting, and at the second meeting in Boston in 1996 I was asked to be a moderator of the town hall. So that afternoon I went to the local military surplus store, I bought a helmet and put it under the table. And then when the town hall started I said ‘I understand that today will be another chapter of what has become a contentious discussion, so I have come prepared.’ Then I put the helmet on and the whole auditorium erupted in laughter, diffusing the tension. Then I put the helmet back on the floor and forgot about it. But the story doesn’t end here.
NS: So what brought you to the MNI?
AE: I was one of two physicists working on the development of a PET scanner, a commercial version of the PET scanner that was built here at the MNI. The original PET scanners were designed by Chris Thompson at the Montreal Neurological Institute, and AECL took his prototype and redesigned it for commercial purposes. So I did a lot of “suitcase physics”, running between AECL in Ottawa, the Chalk River nuclear facility and the MNI, where I worked with Chris Thompson, the developer of the bismuth germanate crystal based PET scanner that replaced sodium iodide PET scanners. Bill Feindel was director of the MNI, so when the program folded in 1984 because AECL realized PET scanners were not commercially viable at that time, Feindel asked me to come to the newly established McConnell Brain Imaging Centre (BIC) at the MNI, which was the world’s first dedicated brain imaging research environment.
NS: Which you eventually got to lead as its director…
AE: Yes, when I took over as director in the 90s I became interested in brain mapping, first with PET activation studies, atlases, and subsequently throughout the 90s more and more with fMRI. I was lucky that I was able to find Keith Worsley, who was a dear friend and partner in crime for many years. The one thing I remember vividly about those days was the bunker, a little room deep in the bowels of the BIC. There were many weekly meetings with Keith, Sean Marrett and Peter Neelin, very smart people who were permanent staff and comprised what I like to call the hidden layers at the BIC. This pattern of hiring a cadre of permanent highly-qualified scientific staff in addition to transient PhD students and fellows was critical to the continued growth of the lab.
NS: Can you tell us a little about your lab today?
AE: Currently I have about 65 people in the lab. About half of them are the scientists who are asking the biological questions, and the other half are the geeks who build the computing and neuroinformatics infrastructure. The challenge is to make sure these people stay together and have a common mission. The lab operates at three levels. First is the IT infrastructure and things like CBRAIN and LORIS. Second is developing algorithms and analytical methods to explore connectivity, and the third is applications of those methods to specific patient cohorts. The two major domains are developmental disorders, autism in particular, and neurodegeneration, particularly Alzheimer’s disease. One of the high points of our recent activity has been the work of post-doc Yasser Iturria-Medina, who has been developing causal models of amyloid propagation in Alzheimer’s using a number of different imaging metrics. Now we are working on generalizing this machinery so as to apply it in development, using the same underlying modelling principles but applied to different imaging metrics. I believe It is important to preserve the general approach as far as possible before it is customized for different applications, but you need a methodological and IT critical mass to support this approach.
NS: What do you think are the most burning questions in neuroimaging today?
AE: Over the years my research has become more involved with connectivity, both structural and functional. Historically, imaging had spent over 20 years confirming what it was possible to do with more invasive methods by identifying focal areas of response to stimulus. There were people who were not convinced that imaging added anything new beyond, for instance, single unit recording. At the turn of the millennium, however, it became evident that imaging can do things other methods cannot, i.e. conduct a whole brain non-invasive survey of brain structure and function. So we could then start to explore the interaction between different parts of the brain, its underlying systems circuitry, over time. This opened up a whole new frontier to examine subtle aspects of brain connectivity in normal brain and in distributed disorders of neurodevelopment and aging.
Scientifically, I think that our field is getting very exciting, if overwhelming, with the consolidation of neuroimaging with other forms of brain data. We should be looking to integrate other forms of information, such as behavior and genetics into the multi-modal characterization of brain states. Some argue that we will lose focus if we do that, but I believe that the way we will understand the brain is by incorporating all this information, along with the computation and big data analytics machinery to combine all this information in predictive models. I think the next 10-20 years will be a golden era for the organization.
NS: Which brings us back to the OHBM and its role as a leader in the field of neuroimaging. What can we expect from the annual meeting in Vancouver?
AE: I feel that in Geneva we came of age, so we are more realistically functioning now as a society. We are broadening our pallet of activities, be it through international chapters or through special interest groups such as the hackathons. I feel like the geeks are the lifeblood of the society, so we can expect more organizational practices, white papers on best practices, as we have seen with the COBIDAS report.
NS: Is there one topic that you are proud to bring to the table as chair?
AE: Well, one of the questions that is going to come up in Vancouver is the question of diversity. I am both delighted and nervous about this, as we recently launched a diversity task force on my watch and this has revealed some schisms between people who want to prescribe solutions and those who want to see this process evolve organically. It is not my place to voice a personal opinion, but I look forward to the discussions at the upcoming town hall meeting.
NS: There are many aspects to diversity, gender and geography being two of the more obvious ones. How do you feel about the recent changes in US immigration policy that will prevent some scientists from attending the annual meeting?
AE: I am very much an internationalist, so I find it unacceptable that people would be prevented from attending meetings based on their nationalities. We as a scientific community have to be on record that we reject identity politics. My lab and OHBM on a bigger scale are excellent examples of how we are being enriched by the international exchange of ideas.
by NILS MUHLERT
At what point did you start preparing to read this article? When you arrived at the webpage, when you read the link, or even earlier? Increasingly, evidence demonstrates how we proactively anticipate events, affecting our perception and cognitive performance. Your mood’s influence on memory is obvious, just think about having to re-read whole paragraphs when you’re tired, distracted or sedated. But even when you’re alert, highly dynamic anticipatory biases operating over brief timescales can affect attention and memory, influencing performance on a trial-by-trial basis.
My interest in neuroscience crystallized during University, when I took a course on physiological psychology. The field of neuroscience was not well known or established then. It was magical to discover that I could turn all those questions in my head into a useful scientific career.
NM: Much of your work focuses on understanding selective attention. What triggered your interest in this field?
KN: I have a fundamental curiosity about the brain-mind interface. Narrowing down my interests was a struggle for me. Since the undergraduate years, I tried multi-unit recordings (eyeblink conditioning), recordings and imaging of hippocampal slices, event-related potentials, intracranial recordings, fMRI, TMS, MEG… I dabbled in conditioning, computation, language, visual categories… Finally my research settled in (or at least around) attention. I love working on attention because I see it as providing core infrastructural support for most if not all psychological functions. The prioritization and selection of information to guide adaptive performance (which is how I define attention) are essential in perception, as well as in working memory, long-term memory, language, etc. By studying attention I can work on cognition broadly, both keeping a coherent line of research and keeping alive my spectrum of interests.
NM: Your recent paper on flexible attention suggests that older adults may retain this capacity. Was this a surprise? And are there more resilient brain structures/ networks that support this preserved function?
KN: Recently, we have started exploring various aspects of attention in the aging brain. Contrary to proposals emphasizing deficits in flexible control in the aging brain, we have found that older adults show equivalent benefits of temporal expectation to young adults; are able to prioritize items flexibly in working memory; and show robust memory-based orienting, despite significant deficits in explicit retrieval for those same memories. These studies are highly encouraging. They provide a basis for developing interventions to counteract some of the deleterious effects of cognitive impairments. Our studies also provide a foundation for understanding how various attention-related functions are compromised in different neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric conditions. This is an active area of research in the lab.
NM: What do you consider to be your greatest scientific achievements?
KN: Science is a living process of discovery and refinement of ideas. The two fields that frame my own research – psychology and neuroscience – are still young and far from mature. Most of our ‘theories’ still have a naïve Aristotelian feel to them. I can only hope that future generations will leave us way behind and achieve much higher levels of understanding. I hope all of my specific contributions will eventually be superseded, and that my discoveries can serve as stepping stones for others.
My aims as a scientist are to explore, experiment, learn, and help transform the process of discovery. I value the process over the outcome. The most rewarding moments come when a finding changes my perspective or opens an unexpected door.
Milestones with personal meaning along my career path include: discovering brain areas relevant for orthographic and semantic processing in ventral occipital and temporal cortex, far away from the language network (early 90s); observing the strong relationship between brain networks for spatial attention and oculomotor control (late 90s); revealing the ability to orient attention in time (late 90s) and in working memory (early 00s); and appreciating the forward functions of LTM (mid 00s).
Other great moments came from the excitement of seeing something for the first time or being able to measure something in a new way. Cherished memories include: spending whole days with a big team to image one slice of prefrontal cortex in an experimental fMRI machine when nothing was automated (e.g., the physicists would calculate shimming gradients on the back of an envelope), recording reversals of large semantic potentials in the ventral temporal cortex (early 90s), seeing activations of the frontal eye fields in the raw signal of perfusion-based fMRI (mid 90s), building contraptions to record EEG simultaneously with TMS (mid 00s), deriving population tuning curves of stimulus orientations using M/EEG to study representations in working memory (recently).
NM: Through the OHBM mentoring program we are pairing up novice and experienced researchers to share successful career strategies and avoid common pitfalls. What is the best piece of scientific advice you have received, and from whom?
KN: I feel so fortunate for the people who have inspired and supported me in my scientific path. It’s not the specific words of wisdom that stick out, but the genuine enthusiasm, the examples set, the opportunities created, and the trust shared. I’ve tried to improve along the way, learning from the distinctive qualities of my mentors. Greg McCarthy, my doctoral supervisor, and Marsel Mesulam, my mentor as an early-career fellow, are strong influences. I share, or took from them, a deep appreciation for scholarship, asking big questions, grounding any cognitive study in the available understanding of the relevant physiology and anatomy, thinking of neural processing in terms of circuits and networks, obsessing over experimental design, and following rigorous methodological procedures and controls.
A pivotal inspirational context was scanning at the functional imaging lab or FIL (then still at the Hammersmith Hospital) when I moved to Oxford (1994). (Oxford did not have its own imaging centre then.) I remember my first meeting with Richard Frackowiak who expressed perplexity at why I should come so highly recommended given my measly record of publication, but then welcoming me anyway. The early days of the FIL were electrifying. If I have one sadness about neuroimaging today, is that it may never feel that exciting again.
NM: Last, at OHBM we have been actively pursuing ways to increase the diversity of our leadership, committees and speakers. During your career from junior scientist to senior PI, have you personally encountered bias, or noticed changes in attitudes towards women in neuroscience/ neuroimaging?
KN: I never felt held back. Whether this is because I personally encountered no bias or because I took little notice of it is hard to tell. However, as I have progressed in my career, and witnessed the treatment of colleagues by others, I have come to appreciate that prejudices are real and have deep harmful consequences. Biases, of course, are not restricted to gender, but include many under-represented groups.
I have certainly embraced promoting a culture change toward equal opportunity, treatment, representation, and promotion of individuals across genders, race, and other groups. I feel things are changing for the better. Slowly, maybe, but surely. For me, it is immensely gratifying to meet the new generations of ever more diverse, talented, and confident scientists. I have enjoyed becoming more aware of and engaged with these important issues. The political tides at the moment remind us that it is necessary to work to promote and preserve the values of a just, open, and inclusive civilization.
BY AMANPREET BADHWAR & ESTRID JAKOBSEN (members of the Central Executive Committee of The Neuro Bureau and co-organizers of the 2017 OHBM Art Exhibition)
Science and art both seek to observe, record, and explain the world around us. While both have their own theoretical frameworks, evolving techniques, and different schools of thought, what is common for scientists and artists is the need to be creative and insightful to make meaningful contributions to their respective fields.
The arts and sciences can collaborate symbiotically. In doing so, they have the potential to create new knowledge, ideas and processes beneficial to both fields. Combining science and art allows scientists to showcase the creative thinking required by the scientific process outside the confines of the standard publishing formats, and allows artists to draw inspiration from sources outside their usual environments. In addition, neuroscience-based art grants a powerful means of public outreach for the scientific community, providing a stimulating common ground on which scientists and non-scientists can begin a conversation on complex themes. Conversely, exposing artists to the latest neuroscience research facilitates the translation of scientific concepts and novel technologies into artwork, which again is a powerful tool for raising the general public’s awareness of science.
In recent years, The Neuro Bureau has brought together neuroscience and art through the annual Brain Art Exhibition and Competition at OHBM. In addition to the upcoming show at the annual meeting in Vancouver, several local exhibitions showcasing submissions by artists and neuroscientists have taken place in Germany, France, and Canada. These local exhibitions extend the reach of the brain art initiatives beyond the OHBM community and raise awareness of neuroscientific research among the general public.
The most recent exhibition entitled “Reaching Beyond the Obvious” is currently being hosted in Montreal. The exhibition aims to foster a dialogue between neuroscience and the arts by bringing together works by artists and members of the neuroscientific community. By doing so, it aims to capture the beauty of the human brain through both literal and metaphorical representations.
The study of brain microstructure (structures invisible to the naked eye) through histological methods results in images that have been appreciated for their raw aesthetic beauty since the late 19th century drawings of Ramon y Cajal. Such images are incredibly complex at the level of single cells, and require creative solutions to understand in relation to the brain as a whole. Contrary to this, In contrast, modern neuroimaging techniques result in data that describe the brain at the macrostructural level (visible to the naked eye), but are difficult to interpret due to their high dimensionality, often encompassing information about both time and space. With recent advances in the quality and resolution of such techniques, understanding the complexity of the resulting data is one of the biggest challenges in neuroscientific research. The development of unique and creative techniques for mapping and visualizing such data has therefore become a vital aspect of neuroimaging science. By making use of abstract representations that reduce the dimensionality of the underlying data to highlight features of interest, such techniques often result in visualizations that carry their own unique aesthetic value and challenge the already blurry boundaries between science and art.
Images from Reaching Beyond the Obvious
Memory Traces | AmanPreet Badhwar
Alluding to the historical neuro-anatomical illustrations of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, this painting depicts an abstract representation of the physical encoding of memory or memory traces in neural tissue. Based on our current understanding, memories are not statically represented in specific areas of our brains, but rather must be actively put together from a variable number of memory traces pulled from multiple locations in the brain.
Edge-bundled DSI | Joachim Böttger
The image shows the result of the application of a method from the field of information visualization, force-directed edge-bundling, to two connectivity datasets. Both graphs (DSI-based on the left and resting-state based on the right) contain nearly 4000 single connections between 1015 regions of interest, which makes their visualization in anatomical 3D brain space a challenge. Edge-bundling groups together similar connections through the simulation of electrostatic attraction forces, and thus helps to make underlying structure visible.
Cerebral Infiltration | Maxime Chamberland, David Fortin, Maxime Descoteaux
Effects of a high-grade brain tumor on the white matter fibers of the brain. Fibers are colored (red to blue) according to their distance from the tumor, which provides an efficient way to visualize the impact of the tumor or tumor resection on the brain’s white matter.
Dance of the Connections | Sara Ambrosino, Emmanuela Ambrosino
The complexity and synchrony of neural connectivity represented as the harmonic movement of dancing bodies. Both brain networks and dancers show a beautiful interplay of elements, with unlimited possibilities of interaction and exchange, performance and communication.
Caught in a Whirlwind | AmanPreet Badhwar
An allegory for negative rumination, or the tendency to remember and dwell on painful past failures. Abnormally increased connectivity in the brain’s “default mode” network, an anti-pattern in this case, has been linked to such ruminations.
Flattened Connectome | Roberto Toro, Katja Heuer
Unfolded whole brain human tractography with highlighted arcuate fasciculus.
Parisian Mask | AmanPreet Badhwar
From mapping a city to mapping the brain - much like on a map (in this case the map of Paris), grid patterns generated by specialized brain cells are crucial for the cognitive representation of Euclidean space (i.e. space that can be represented using a coordinate system), and facilitate the encoding of spatial memory.
The Multi-Resolution Effect | AmanPreet Badhwar, Pierre Bellec
From neurons, to stars, to galaxies, understanding the universe requires a multi-resolution approach. Technical note: An average functional connectivity matrix was generated across all individuals of the Kennedy Krieger Institute site in the ADHD200 sample, and further binarized by application of a threshold. An automated layout was generated using the Gephi software. The size and color of each node was set proportional to its degree, and further edited for aesthetics.
Swirls of Synchrony | Pierre Bellec
Each point measures the synchrony (correlation) of spontaneous brain activity with that of the cingulate cortex. Rows are brain regions (space), columns are time windows. Rows have been ordered to expose the spatial structure of synchrony. Non-linear deformation of the space/time grid have been applied to expand outlier synchrony values, and visually emphasize their importance. This may turn out to be a useful trick to explore space-time dynamics, or not.
The Resolution Effect | AmanPreet Badhwar, Pierre Bellec
This image represents the binarized average functional connectivity matrices generated using functional brain parcellations of differing sizes (the smaller the parcels,the higher the resolution). The size of each node is a function of its degree of connectedness. It alludes to the fact that the dense web of connections visualized result from the use of high-resolution functional parcellations.
Untitled | Crean Quaner
Conceptualization of the human brain as a fundamentally pattern-forming, self-organizing system governed by non-linear dynamics. In this view, cognition is the embodied, situated formation of expansive spatio-temporal patterns of activity that connect with and extend out to their surroundings as a result of widespread brain-body-environment interactions.
Above the Clouds | Josefina Maranzano
This piece is part of a special series created to mark the Autism Awareness Month. Inspired by differences and similarities in the way our brains work, I tried to illustrate the importance of our minds from the moment we are born. The title is a quote from a poem by Thérèse de Lisieux, « Au-dessus des nuages, le ciel est toujours bleu » (Above the clouds, the sky is always blue)… the interpretation is yours.
Cerebral Graffiti | AmanPreet Badhwar
Graffiti in public spaces are mnemonic battlegrounds. Layer upon caked layer of combinations and contrasts, vulnerable to fading. The problem is trying to figure out what will stay, and what will be lost. It's puzzling, because not unlike memory itself, the mnemonic initiatives that tend to stick around aren't always the ones that felt most memorable at the time.
Lace Brain | Michel Thiebaut de Schotten, Benedicte Batrancourt
The piece was created using diffusion images, photoshop color filters and a final filter called percolator. Lace brain is the official cover image of the OHBM blog team.
Inside-Out | Simon Drouin
Curved slice extracted from an anatomical MRI and tattooed on the subject’s skin.
Astrocytes | AmanPreet Badhwar
Astrocytes are not usually associated with memory. This view is slowly changing. A recent study demonstrated that astrocytes control gamma oscillations, brain waves associated with recognition memory. This painting is inspired by the beauty of fluorescence immunohistochemistry.
This year The Neuro Bureau is launching its seventh annual Brain-Art Competition in order to recognize the beauty and creativity of artistic renderings emerging from the neuroimaging community. Researchers are invited to submit their favorite unpublished works by June 14th, 2017.