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Art of Neuroscience 2018

You can visit our online gallery to browse through other entries, or download a compilation of all entries with full descriptions in PDF format (part 1, part 2, part 3)

For all sad words of tongue and pen,

the saddest are these, ‘it might have been’

Lynn Lu, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Singapore  

Carmine Pariante, King’s College London

Winner 2018

Together with neuroscientist Carmine Pariante, we created a weekend-long installation and participatory performance for the “BLOOD: Life Uncut” exhibition organised by the Science Gallery London. 

The artwork is a metaphorical blood exchange that draws from Prof Pariante’s research at King’s College: blood inflammation in people affected by stress impacts the brain and reduces the birth of new neurons, thus inducing depressive symptoms.

I invited participants to recount a significant personal regret – a theme that plagues depressed patients – as I transcribed it onto a sheet of vellum. I then pricked their finger and placed a drop of blood in a petri dish. In exchange, I offered them a shot of anti-inflammatory beet juice.

Over the two days, the petri dishes filled with blood “inflamed” with lament while vials of detoxifying beetroot emptied one by one. Nearby speakers murmured layered verses of ‘what might have been’, while the wall behind us gradually filled with anonymous regrets collected from participants. For further information on this art project please visit the project site here:

Spin Glass

Jenny Walsh, Kate Jeffery & Jeremy Keenan

Honorable Mention 2018

This work was a collaboration with Kate Jeffery, a professor of Behavioural Neuroscience at University College London and Jeremy Keenan a technician. Spin Glass represents a head-direction network that is controlled by the head movements of an exploring mouse. With the animal’s movements, light activity shifts through the network such that the active neurons always signal the direction of the mouse’s head, thus forming its sense of direction.
The accompanying music was based on a sample produced from rubbed crystal glass, modulated to make notes of different pitch. These notes were then combined to make chords, with each chord matching a direction. Because the sense of direction forms a continuous circle, the chords were formed as a circular scale, enabling the music to continuously and smoothly follow the movements of the head and the activation of the neurons.

Complex Rhythm sustaining Complex Life

Yishul Wei, Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience

Honorable Mention 2018


The autonomic nervous system regulates the heartbeat for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, generating the fundamental rhythm that sustains life. Without the heart rhythm, we are only dead bodies. The heart rhythm is never perfectly periodic, but it is tied to our body conditions, our activities, our emotions and feelings — indeed, everything in our complex life. Even when we are asleep, the heart-rate still exhibits variability, a result of the non-stop neural regulation. This image shows the electrocardiogram (ECG) of an asleep healthy adult. The ECG was recorded continuously for 15 minutes.

The image displays consecutive equal-length segments of the ECG corresponding to the average heart-rate, superimposed on each other. It is clearly seen the heart rhythm is not perfectly periodic, otherwise the heartbeats (R-waves or “spikes” in the ECG) would overlap. The rhythm is also not random, but have complex structures reflecting the underlying complex nonlinear neural control outside of our consciousness.

The Fabric of Thoughts – Recognising an odour

Carles Bosch Piñol, The Francis Crick Institute

Francesca Piñol Torrent, Escola Massana Art and Design Centre

Honorable Mention 2018

The sense of smell is first encoded in the brain by a highly modular and compact structure, the glomerulus, which can reveal some mesmerizing neuronal landscapes. We aim to better understand how the brain recognises odours.

We approach this challenge by imaging in 3D tissue landscapes that contain these modules, so neurons can be followed and traced. We employ an automated serial block-face scanning electron microscope (SBEM) combined with other imaging modalities to target specific locations in the brain. Some images that illustrate our most recent ongoing experiments were adapted so they could be transferred efficiently into a loom.

We wove fabrics depicting these neuronal landscapes using a Jacquard manual loom with digital thread control. Geometrical patterns appear at different scales – ranging from microns to millimetres. 

Some features were woven with fluorescent threads, allowing light and electron microscopy images to overlap in the tapestry. Taken together, through a crosstalk between artists and neurosciencists we are displaying some hidden gems of the mammalian brain.


Human Astrocytoma Cells

Alwin Kamermans, Vrije Universiteit Medical Center

Honorable Mention 2018

A depiction of astrocytoma cells derived from the cerebral cortex of a rat. The cells were fixed and stained the cells for a cytoskeletal protein, MAP2 that is enriched in the dendrites. Using post-processing tools, the author mimicked the effect of tilt-shift blur to give the image more depth.

To celebrate creativity, the staff of AoN 2018 has additionally selected four more artworks to be highlighted on the website!

Water Color Neuron

Yayoi Teramoto, University of Oxford

Staff Pick 2018

How do neuroscientists figure out how the neurons they study look like? They take brain slices and use a very thin glass tube to poke a tiny hole in the neuron’s membrane, which they then use to ‘spy’ into the neuron’s electrical activity. In these glass tubes they also put in a dye that diffuses through the hole and into the neuron. If they get lucky the dye fills the whole cell, from its axons to its dendrites. This piece uses a paint brush loaded with ink to demonstrate the same principle to fill out neurons that were first drawn on paper with water. The colour diffuses through the water neuron. Music by Kevin MacLeod. Watch the movie here: yayoi-teramoto-university-of-oxford

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 11.53.40

Striatal Spindle

Karoline Hovde, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Staff Pick 2018

Axons from neurons in the posterior parietal cortex traveling through striatum. Anterograde tracers (cyan, orange and deep red colors) were injected into posterior parietal cortex, the cortex dissected out, flattened and cut in tangential sections revealing this spindle-like labeling.


Shimpei Ishiyama, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Micah Gettys, Waseda University Academic Solutions

Staff Pick 2018

This experimental music is a session by musicians along with neuronal activity in the brain of a rat, when the rat is tickled by a scientist. The flash of neurons represents activity of six neurons in the rat somatosensory cortex. The spectrum below shows “laughter” of the rat, which is  incorporated in the musical score. A rat’s laughter is beyond our hearing range, so it was converted to a lower pitch so that we can hear. The image turns a pink colour when the rat is tickled. The neurons are more active and the rat laughs more, when being tickled.

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 12.19.52

To learn more about the neural correlates of ‘ticklishness’ read the published work by Ishiyama & Brecht here:      To see the movie go here: Neuromusik-Art-of-Neuroscience


Neuro Forest

Joana Cuiko

Staff Pick 2018


Originally, this image was drawn with a pen on paper and later edited in a computer program. The process of making this artwork became my evening meditation for two consecutive winters. The never ending growth of these imaginative “neuro trees” gave me endless joy. Through my work I reflect on the nature of the mind and perception. My ultimate aim is to share a sense of continuity, that is under constant threat in the fragmented reality that we face today.