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Art of Neuroscience 2022

This year, 53 contestants from over all the world submitted nearly 113 submissions. We thank all participants for their outstanding contributions. While it was extremely difficult to choose from such a wide range of high quality submissions, the jury consisting of Dr. Bevil Conway, Dr. Flora Lysen and Dr. Sabine Niederer eventually converged on a winner and four honorable mentions. We thank them too for their critical feedback and expert opinion. The selected entries can be found below, accompanied with a description and jury commentary. 

None of the works can be reproduced without the written consent of the authors and Art of Neuroscience.

Mare Incognito by Daniela de Paulis

Independent Artist

2022 Winner

 

Mare Incognito is an interdisciplinary project directed by media artist Daniela de Paulis and culminating in the film recording of a live performance during which the brain activity of deep sleep is transmitted into space in real time. The project explores the moment during the sleep cycle while awareness seems to dissolve and while the self gradually minimises and detaches from the continuous life narrative. The perceived loss of consciousness during sleep is the only moment in daily life when the thinking process and self-awareness gradually shred into an unfathomable void, an experience possibly similar to the moment of dying.

Mare Incognito thus poetically explores and draws reflection upon the process of dying as a daily experience in human life. The performance conceptually links the dissolution and symbolic death of the self as experienced during deep sleep with the darkness, coldness and vacuum of outer space and explores how such immeasurable forms of space and emptiness might poetically resonate with each other. The title of the work hints at a journey into the obscure oceans of inner and outer space. The project crosses various fields of research, including radio astronomy, neuroscience, performance art and cosmology.

Mare Incognito is a collaboration bringing together and stimulating intellectual exchange among researchers from renowned international institutions. The film recording shows the live performance with the artist transmitting her brain activity into space while sleeping amongst the radio antennas of the Square Kilometre Array at the Mullard Radio Observatory in Cambridge. The project brought together neuroscientists specialised in sleep and consciousness studies from the Donders Centre in the Netherlands and the University of Cambridge in the UK. It also allowed the neuroscientists to collaborate with the radio astronomers at the Mullard Radio Observatory and a cosmologist from the Max Planck Institute. The performance has been filmed by Dutch film maker Mirjam Somers and photographer Bas Czerwinski.

For the complete description of collaborators and technical partners, please visit the project website.

The jury praised the transdisciplinary approach of “Mare Incognito”, which brings together seemingly disparate academic fields. The work skilfully combines neuroscience and art, addressing problems of subjective experience that are at the heart of both disciplines. The jury feels that the work can teach us how to learn about the human subjective experience through scientific research, while simultaneously inviting the viewer to participate in the subjective experience itself.

On the path of green: science with a light footprint

Anne Wienand

Donders Institute.

2022 Honorable Mention

In this photo, we can see an ALS mouse, a neurodegenerative model characterized by impairments of the motor system, exploring the CatWalk. This task uses the play of colors to help us detect the footprints of mice and test gait and locomotion. Provokingly, the mouse there evokes the construct of walking on a green track with light footprints, which resonates with the idea of diminishing the negative impact of animal research. As in the photo, even a light footprint on a green path still requires animal research, and it is as important to acknowledge this as it is to move towards more sustainable science.

This image was deemed to be a captivating representation of neuroscience “in the making”. It highlightscrucial research in neurodegenerative disease, the value of animal models (which is not frequently addressed in the public eye), and the involvement of high-tech commercial enterprises. The jury was drawn to the image because of its sci-fi aesthetics and eerie colour scheme. This colour and luminance, as well as the contrast between the frigid technology and the organic living organism, sparks the viewer’s imagination as to how technology, industry, science, and animal models are integrated to address challenges in neuroscience. 

(HM26)submission
 

Opulent

Quirijn Verhoog

Independent Artist

2022 Honorable Mention

“The concept of beauty and nature has always influenced me as a person and an artist and I’m always looking for excuses to travel to remote destinations.”

 

The jury regarded this piece as mesmerising and unique. They felt transported on a journey through which they viewed nature through uncanny eyes, and praised the clever way in which the music was integrated into the rhythm of the visuals. As the AI method used in this work is employed in neuroscience to model neural responses, the piece was deemed to be “serving as an artistic mirror of contemporary practise in science”. 

While working at the Amsterdam University Medical Center, Quirijn Verhoog was inspired by his research on astrocytes and decided to translate his ideas into music. After graduating from his master’s in Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences, he spent 3 months producing an album in which art and science are intertwined. Under his alias “Precursor”, Verhoog used laboratory data to trigger musical instruments, complex modular synthesis to mimick brain signaling, and created music inspired by concepts within neuroscience.

Opulent is one of these works, an ode to the beauty in our world, with a twist. The piece connects our natural world to the digital future. Teaming up with Oded Welgreen, a software engineer and artist himself, the two present an audio-visual experience in which artificial intelligence captures nature in the most bizarre way.

How does an AI program view our world?

The process behind Opulent is based on the GAN algorithm. The neural network “GauGAN2” was trained on a data set with nature images, and used in combination with animation and editing software to respond to the original music, creating an immersive experience in which the network’s interpretation of our natural world is exposed.

More information about the Precursor project and affiliates can be found below:

Precursor
Oded Welgreen

Dueling Cajals

Dawn M Hunter

University of South Carolina

2022 Honorable Mention

While a Fulbright Scholar at the Instituto Cajal, I had access to the Legado Cajal, which consisted of his original scientific drawings, personal items, journals, histology slides, and photography. I am creating a body of artwork comprised of images created that reference the primary sources from his work and life. Within this series, I dovetail Cajal’s interests in the literature he expressed in his biography and aspects of his scientific research.

This image represents internal conflict, death, and regeneration. When creating this image, I sought to encompass a source of inspiration throughout Cajal’s lifetime, Don Quixote, while paying homage to Cajal’s last major work, Degeneration and Regeneration of the Nervous System. In creating this work, I used the original cast mold of Cajal’s death mask. In that capacity, I held up the mask to cast silhouettes on the page of both profiles. Cajal’s nose had been broken twice during his lifetime, resulting in strikingly different profile shapes. I juxtaposed the profiles with imagery from his one of his “regenerative” nerve drawings. The neuro imagery is a recreation of a cut cat nerve drawing I referenced from the Legado Cajal and is one of the drawings that was published in Degeneration and Regeneration of the Nervous System.

Lastly, I created dueling Don Quixotes. Cajal loved that novel and often sought solace for his flaws and consoled himself on the folly of humanity when reading that book. Lastly, the “regenerative” vegetation and animals directly reference the illustrated artwork on his 1906 Nobel Prize – also drawn, like all aspects of this piece, by referencing the primary source while creating the drawing.

(HM93)submission

This submission struck the jury because of its emphasis on the history of neuroscience. The work highlights how any scientific process, particularly scientific image-making, can be influenced by a multilayering of cultural and historical factors. The jury admired how diverse periods in time from this historical perspective were weaved into one image, and appreciated the effort that went into investigating the sources that Cajal was exposed to. Dueling Cajals serves as an important reminder for neuroscientists to recognize history and its influence on their work.  

 

The cerebral fluids and vasculature

Daphne Naessens

Department of Biomedical Engineering and Physics

2022 Honorable Mention

 

(HM24crop)submission

My PhD project focused on the mechanisms that regulate fluid homeostasis and solute transport within the brain parenchyma. We, furthermore, investigated how these processes are altered in hypertension. The painting of my submission was especially designed for the cover of my PhD thesis. It represents the human brain with its vasculature and the different fluid compartments. The watercolour painting refers to the fluids in the brain, as these played a prominent role in my PhD project.

The jury praised this elegant depiction employing traditional painting watercolour techniques. The use of an aqueous medium complements the depiction of the fluid that sustains the brain, creating symmetry between the artistic and neurobiological characteristics of the painting. The jury felt that the simplicity and directedness of gesture, in juxtaposition to contemporary trends that emphasise technological complexity, resulted in a clean and warm image.

Spinal Cord

Greg Dunn

Independent Artist

STAFF PICK 2022

 

 

Spinal Cord is a highly detailed rendering of a cross section of the human spinal cord. This image was made entirely from scratch, deeply informed by the neuroscientific literature and my background in neuroscience and designed to be an accurate atlas of both anatomy and connectivity. Spinal Cord is a reflective microetching, a technique capable of encoding animations in an etched piece of artwork through careful manipulation of how light reflects off of the surface.


This artwork and associated images, GIFs, and video is designed to give the viewer a comprehensive understanding of how information travels in the spinal cord. In particular, I wanted to emphasize the complexity of the transverse white matter regions and how signals travel into and out of these areas. Information travels through the afferent inputs in the dorsal ganglia, is processed in the butterfly shaped gray matter regions in the central cord, and through computations with interneurons and afferent/efferent signals from adjacent regions of the transverse white matter tracts leads to signal outputs through the ventral cord that execute movements.

A Collegiate Collage

Jackson Boonstra

Maastricht University

STAFF PICK 2022

 

 

Neuroimaging is as much an art as it is a science; making visual representations of thoughts and feelings is a mixed job of neuroscientists and artists alike.

submission
submission

Through the Translucent Membrane of Knowing and Unknowing.

Janet Waring Rago

Independent Artist

STAFF PICK 2022

A digital photographic layering, this image is a musing on the visible-invisible mind-body problem and the nature of consciousness. It can be seen on screen or as a projection, and printed out as a physical print.

Community

Tiago Costa-Coelho

Instituto de Medicina Molecular João Lobo Antunes

STAFF PICK 2022

 

If the current pandemic taught us something is that people are social individuals! Upon lifting quarantine regulations, we eagerly reconnected with our friends and family. Neurons are no different! Forever linked, forever communicating, neurons are the basic unit of our nervous system. Parallelly, even a community of neurons is not deprived of its neighbors, the glial cells, key players in maintaining neuronal homeostasis. This microscope micrograph depicts a population of cortical neurons probed for one of their characteristic proteins, MAP2 (microtubule-associated protein 2). This protein is fluorescently labeled with specific antibodies carrying a fluorophore, resulting on its bright green glow! In blue, we can see each neuron nucleus, the information center of any cell.

submission

“If you truly love n̶a̶t̶u̶r̶e̶ neuroscience, you will find beauty everywhere”

Sean Keating

PhD student, Queensland Brain Institute

STAFF PICK 2022

The words of Vincent van Gogh and beautiful swirling structure of the hippocampus inspired this recreation of his masterpiece, “The Starry Night”, which has been constructed here by merging images of fluorescently-labelled neurons (blue, white) and star-like astrocytes (gold) organised within the mouse brain.

 

submission