Art and science explode in stunning brain artwork

PIC BY: GREG DUNN AND WILL DRINKER / CATERS

These stunning images showcase the incredible complexity of the human brain through an explosive fusion of art and science.

The most elaborate artistic visualisation of the brain in the world, the work highlights what is happening inside the human brain while an individual is looking at such a masterpiece.

Artists Dr. Greg Dunn and Dr. Brian Edwards hope this work – entitled Self Reflected because it is your brain perceiving itself – will increase appreciation for the brain‘s complexity through the power of art.

The shimmering work, however, is not a brain scan – it was created using a combination of deep neuroscience research, hand drawing, algorithmic simulations, photolithography, and finished in gold leaf.

PIC BY: GREG DUNN AND WILL DRINKER / CATERS

Greg, from Philadelphia, USA, said: “We wanted to create an unprecedented insight into the human brain.

“Existing visualizations were limited in scope, complexity, and Self Reflected was designed to be a resource for both brain professionals due to its high level of accuracy and for the lay public due to its ability to communicate the brain‘s complexity and beauty directly through emotion and perception.”

The project took two years and required the help of two neuroscience, four art, and one engineering undergraduate assistants, and with the assistance of many advisors and collaborators.

Self Reflected contains the animated circuitry of 500,000 neurons and is made of 25 individually etched and gilded plates which make up an three-by-four-meter representation of a single brain slice.

PIC BY: GREG DUNN AND WILL DRINKER / CATERS

Its reflective animations depict 500 millionths of a second of actual brain time.

The pair painted every neuron by blowing ink around on paper, scanned them into the computer, and then used them as building blocks to ‘paint’ the entire brain slice.

Once the regions were painted with neurons, a custom computer algorithm helped to realistically construct circuits and make animations of the neurons communicating with one another.

As light passes over the work for a period of five seconds, an explosion of connections come to life at a speed around 10,000 times slower than in the human brain, so that the activity can be seen clearly.

PIC BY: GREG DUNN AND WILL DRINKER / CATERS

Greg added: “This was the most challenging project that either Brian or I have ever worked on.

“We dedicated years of our lives to this project in an attempt to greatly enrich the way in which the average person thinks about their own brain.”

The technique the artists invented to create such an effect, which the pair call microetching, is similar to how computer chips are created.

By covering these etches in gold leaf, the final work achieves a golden reflectiveness that can appear in a huge number of ways depending on how it is lit.

The piece was funded by the National Science Foundation, an American organization that funds basic science research, and the first edition of Self Reflected hangs in the Franklin Institute, a science museum in Philadelphia.

Greg said: “Self Reflected is designed to give everybody – kids, teachers, bankers, farmers, the poor, the rich – an opportunity to step back and marvel at the wonder of human consciousness.

“In a time of global divisiveness, our shared privilege of each having one of these magnificent machines in our skulls can help to remind us to use it wisely and compassionately.”

More information and artwork from the project can be found at http://www.gregadunn.com/self-reflected/