The Beautiful Brain

Issue 63 February 2021

The Beautiful Brain

Katharine Dowson’s inspiration comes from nature, medicine and the scientific world as she often collaborates with scientists as part of her artistic practice. These include researchers investigating genetics, dyslexia and Parkinson’s disease, producing intricate casts of her own heart and brain from MRI scans. Her sculptures are made in various media but especially transparent materials and glass, which she uses as a metaphor for a membrane, a fragile yet robust skin that allows light to pass through and reveal the hidden interior within.

Better People Through Chemistry?

Many psychedelic proponents feel a need to ground their claims for the evaluative significance of chemically induced mystical experience in prior metaphysical claims about higher realities endowed with special moral authority. Herein, I recommend a shift in perspective according to which we need not posit moral supernature to justify the revelatory capacity of such experiences to tell us how to best act and be.

NeuroArt

Danial Arabali is an Iranian-German artist and Engineer. In one series of his ‘NeuroArt’ paintings, he takes a look at the neuronal networks from a more artistic point of view rather than realistic representations of existing structures, while in another series he attempts to apply the modern color theory concepts of expressionist German artists to visualize the beauty of neuronal connections in a more abstract manner.

The Pacemaker

Lidija Kononenko is a student from the Royal Academy of Arts in London, whose practice investigates methodologies of scientific research into the human condition. Her artwork ‘31-3594’ won the Art of Neuroscience 2020 in which she explores the nervous system in an interactive way. ‘The Pacemaker’ is an animation film exploring endurance training and emotional complexities in romantic relationships.

Brain Terrains

Hanif Janmohamed is an artist based in Vancouver, Canada. His practice is focused on the Geographies of the Mind. ‘Brain Terrains’ is an ongoing body of work. A wandering, quixotic expedition through the common visual lexicons of our human and planetary bodies – a reframe of our inhabitation across scale through recombined medical and satellite imaging.

Brain Series

Michelle Hunter’s ‘Brain Series’ deconstructs familiar themes related to how our brains function and is meant to help the general public gain a greater appreciation for this organ we don’t usually “think” about. Using a painterly technique, the artist transforms everyday objects with a subtle unexpected surreal approach.

Neuroscience in pictures: the best images of the year

Wei Luan is a Postdoctoral Researcher, The University of Queensland. His current research studies how the dopamine neuronal system is affected in schizophrenia from the beginning of embryonic brain development.

Merja Joensuu is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The Single Molecule Neuroscience Lab, The University of Queensland, lead by Prof Frederic A Meunier. The overall aim of research is to study how neurons communicate in health and disease by using super-resolution microscopy techniques.

Ravi Kiran Kasula is a PhD Student, The University of Queensland.

These artists paint with their feet – scans show how unique their brains are

Harriet Dempsey-Jones is a Postdoctoral Researcher in Cognitive Neurosciences, UCL. She is a researcher in the field of cognitive psychology at University College London, looking at how our brains and particular cognitive processes cause our subjective psychological and perceptual experience.

“My research looks at how the body processes touch and other sensory inputs. Particularly, I am interested in plasticity in the area of the brain that processes sensory inputs from your body – the somatosensory cortex. I look at how this system is shaped by adding or removing sensory inputs.”

How the brain builds a sense of self from the people around us – new research

Sam Ereira is a Postdoctoral researcher of Computational and Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL. Between 2015 and 2019 he did his PhD in computational and cognitive neuroscience at the Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research and the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging. His research used behavioural modelling and brain imaging to try and understand how the human mind distinguishes between Self and Other, and how this process might go wrong in mental health disorders.

Consciousness: how can I experience things that aren’t ‘real’?

Philip Goff is Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Durham University. A philosopher and consciousness researcher, his research focuses on how to integrate consciousness into our scientific worldview.

“My first academic book, Consciousness and Fundamental Reality (Oxford University Press), was published in 2017 and my first book aimed at a general audience, Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness (Rider in UK, Pantheon in US), was published in November 2019.

I argue that the traditional approaches of materialism (consciousness can be explained in terms of physical processes in the brain) and dualism (consciousness is separate from the body and brain) face insuperable difficulties. On the basis of this I defend a form of panpsychism, the view that consciousness is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of the physical world. It sounds a bit crazy, but I try to show that it avoids the difficulties faced by its rivals.”

Brainscapes

Artist and writer, Richard Bright, has addressed the relationship between art, science and consciousness for over 30 years. He has exhibited both nationally and internationally and was the recipient of the ‘Visions of Science’ Award, The Edge, Andrew Brownsward Gallery, University of Bath (Second Prize Winner). In ‘Brainscapes’ he shows some works from his neuroscience inspired Limited Edition Prints.