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.