|Brian: the typographical error that brought early career neuroscientists and artists together.|
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|PMID: 22679393 Owner: NLM Status: MEDLINE|
|Megan J Dowie; Erin Forsyth; Leah Forsyth|
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|Type: Journal Article; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't Date: 2012-06-05|
|Title: PLoS biology Volume: 10 ISSN: 1545-7885 ISO Abbreviation: PLoS Biol. Publication Date: 2012|
|Created Date: 2012-06-08 Completed Date: 2012-10-12 Revised Date: 2013-07-12|
Medline Journal Info:
|Nlm Unique ID: 101183755 Medline TA: PLoS Biol Country: United States|
|Languages: eng Pagination: e1001340 Citation Subset: IM|
|Centre for Brain Research, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand. email@example.com|
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Neurosciences / education*
Journal ID (nlm-ta): PLoS Biol
Journal ID (iso-abbrev): PLoS Biol
Journal ID (publisher-id): plos
Journal ID (pmc): plosbiol
Publisher: Public Library of Science, San Francisco, USA
Dowie et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
collection publication date: Month: 6 Year: 2012
Print publication date: Month: 6 Year: 2012
Electronic publication date: Day: 5 Month: 6 Year: 2012
Volume: 10 Issue: 6
E-location ID: e1001340
PubMed Id: 22679393
Publisher Id: PBIOLOGY-D-11-03599
|Brian: The Typographical Error that Brought Early Career Neuroscientists and Artists Together|
|Megan J. Dowie1*¤|
1Centre for Brain Research, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
2The Busy Nice, Auckland, New Zealand
|Correspondence: * E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
[current-aff] ¤: Current address: MRC Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
The Community Page is a forum for organizations and societies to highlight their efforts to enhance the dissemination and value of scientific knowledge.
The divide between the arts and sciences is a relatively modern phenomenon. One can look at Renaissance collaborations between naturalists and artists, including the rich body of botanical art from the 1500s, as historical examples of such interdisciplinary collaborations –. But as both fields have evolved, it's not surprising that they have become more compartmentalised and culturally segregated. Today, art and science subjects are taught independently from an early age, the divisions often solidifying over time . Indeed, it is a great generalisation to limit definitions to merely “science” and “art,” with so many distinct categories within each field.
Projects that enlist scientists and artists to incorporate both perspectives have the potential to promote scientific research in the public arena, enrich the creative component of science, stimulate artists, and engage diverse communities in dialogue and discourse, while developing exposure for both fields. Do You Mind?, an art-science collaboration started by researchers at the University of Auckland Centre for Brain Research and the arts management business The Busy Nice, was initially inspired by the imagery produced within neuroscience as tools to start conversation—from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of the human brain to the recording of electrical signals from brain cells in culture to fluorescent microscopy images of cells (Figure 1).
Do You Mind? paired early career neuroscientists at the Centre for Brain Research with newly established local artists. Collaborators started with the scientists' research, but were free to discuss any aspect of the brain and brain research. Artists then produced artworks for exhibition in response to this interaction and research.
The direct outcomes of Do You Mind? included a large-scale public exhibition and a publication documenting the project, with images and responses from all participants. Overall, developing Do You Mind? as a community project, using collaborative approaches, multi-media engagement, and documentation throughout the project, helped ensure high-profile media promotion. Anecdotal feedback from both the artists and scientists suggested that involvement had a positive effect upon their perspective and professional practice. The high level of public and media interest not only increased awareness of current neuroscience research at the Centre for Brain Research but also captivated fresh audiences for both research and art in Auckland.
Researchers were recruited internally in the Centre for Brain Research and the project was promoted to artists via a local creative website or by personal contact. Both early career scientists and newly established artists were encouraged to participate. Upon selection, participants attended an informal introductory evening. Participants then had 8 wk to produce artworks (with check-ins scheduled at 3 and 6 wk) and were required only to start with the scientist's research theme and to produce artwork through an organic process. Early on, project curators dubbed the project “Brian,” personifying it with a whimsical identity, resulting from a simple mistyping of the word “brain.”
(For a description of how the discussion was facilitated and what types of online resources were used, please see Text S1.)
The artworks and accompanying publication were exhibited in a launch event and over a 10-d period. The exhibition was staged independent of the University or an established gallery in order to set a neutral tone, ensuring accessibility to broad audiences.
Artworks ranged from organic sculpture to contemporary watercolours, sound production to oil paintings. The research-based style of the project and unconventional theme enabled many artists to explore new mediums, and more than 40 artworks were submitted for display from the 15 partnerships (Figures 1 and 2). Research themes came broadly from across the Centre for Brain Research, including studies on methamphetamine addiction, perception of music and its correlation with movement, neural stem cell migration, tinnitus and attention, the brain's hemispheric laterality, and remembering the past/imagining the future (a brief summary of all 15 pairs is described in Table 1). The publication included summaries of the neuroscience research projects with samples of corresponding art, and all participants were asked to contribute a brief written response their involvement (the publication can be viewed on the blog at doyoumind.tumblr.com/publication). An informal evaluation of these texts demonstrates primarily positive feedback from a diversity of relationships (see Table S1).
Public engagement in scientific issues is vital. Indeed, with social questions inherent to brain research, the field of neuroscience has further responsibilities to facilitate dialogue . Approaching this issue through collaboration and interaction with a creative community, benefiting both parties, helps encourage non-scientists to engage with scientific research. Formalised interactions between artists and scientists are relatively new, with exciting and stimulating results to date –, and internationally there is increasing recognition, support, and funding for such interactions –.
Vital features making Do You Mind? a successful cross-disciplinary collaboration included the interaction between paired artists and scientists, the freedom to mutually explore ideas, and the challenge of a loose conceptual framework. A relevant feature of this project is the embedded interest from the Centre for Brain Research, as a high proportion of science-art projects are artist-initiated or led ,. For scientists, Do You Mind? offered increased science communication, promotion of research and science outcomes to society through media exposure, and engagement with different communities, including younger generations. The project also encouraged creative thinking as scientists saw their own and others' research in a different light and became more aware of serendipitous opportunities in their results. For artists, Do You Mind? offered newly established artists public exposure as well as access to a world they may not normally inhabit, with the challenge of an unconventional theme and short timeframe. The experience of three of the artists was captured in a video produced by The Busy Nice for the Science Communicators Association of New Zealand (SCANZ) annual conference 2011 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFH9b56aBL0&feature=player_embedded).
Through the initiative, the artists and scientists realised they have much in common. Artists and scientists are similarly interested in understanding nature, order, and function, and ask questions in similar ways, developing hypotheses, experimenting, and testing ideas. Of course, we present our conclusions in different ways. Scientific research is definite, unambiguous, specialised, and intentional. In contrast, artists are speculative and explicitly open themselves to critique, inviting unique opinions and interpretations, sometimes even intending to challenge an audience. Narratives exploring science and art, and the disjunct between them, may lead to a more holistic approach to their research by both artists and scientists.
Projects like Do You Mind? give artists a wider range of enquiry while encouraging scientists to be more comfortable with uncertainty. As Robert Sapolsky so aptly stated, “science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and reinvigorate it” . Despite all the ambitious objectives possible from art-science collaborations, the most unpretentious and rewarding outcome of Do You Mind? was the initiation of discussions, across communities and disciplines. Aside from the affectionate naming of the project as the unassuming “Brian,” Mei Cooper provided an insightful artistic response to Pritika Narayan's research into epigenetic changes occurring in neurodegenerative diseases. Cooper made a metal pole flaunting a long transparent plastic banner with words painted in silver saying: “The innumerable task of generating problems to solve tomorrow.” The definition of research, perhaps?
Artists and scientists respond in writing (excerpts).
Click here for additional data file (pbio.1001340.s001.docx)
Facilitation of discussion and online resources used.
Click here for additional data file (pbio.1001340.s002.docx)
The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
The Do You Mind? exhibition and accompanying publication were supported through generous funding from the University of Auckland Centre for Brain Research, the Royal Society of New Zealand, and Ironbank venue support from Samson Corporation. During the project M.J.D. was supported by a Kate Edger Educational Charitable Trust Post-doctoral Research Award. The funders had no role in decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
The authors gratefully acknowledge that Do You Mind? would not have been possible without the passionate and willing commitment from the 30 amazing participating artists and scientists (listed here: doyoumind.tumblr.com/partners). Essential support of the project came from Professor Richard Faull, Director of the Centre for Brain Research, and Rob Garrett, Director of Rob Garrett Contemporary Fine Arts. A team of volunteers (from both science and art perspectives) who assisted with the opening, exhibition, and publication similarly were invaluable. Special thanks to the Centre for Brain Research Communications and Liaison Manager Laura Fogg and University of Auckland Communications Advisor Liz Garton.
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|DTI||diffusion tensor imaging|
|fMRI||functional magnetic resonance imaging|
Table 1 Brief summary of research covered by the neuroscientists, additional themes discussed, and the art medium and/or response chosen for use by the partnering artist.
|Research Area (Theory, Techniques, Other Features Discussed)||Art Medium and Response|
|Clinical depression, identity, stem cells/neurogenesis, histology, stained brain tissue sections on glass slides||Charcoal portrait representing identity printed onto transparency, mounted freestanding and upright, with sectioned portions mimicking slides/coverslips|
|Auditory-motor associations during and after musical training, plasticity of the brain in the sensorimotor domain, recording using electroencephalography (EEG)||Large site-specific wall-mounted installation modelled upon key EEG recording locations on the skull, using vinyl cut and perspex cubes, including images of musical notation and boxers (demonstrating action)|
|Epigenetics in neurodegenerative diseases, human post-mortem brain tissue, microscopy (concept of scale)||Conceptual sculptures including a concrete plinth mimicking a gravestone, flag-pole with plastic banner and painted words and a watercolour painting representative of the human brain|
|Brain immune cells, microglia function, human post-mortem brain cells grown in culture, magnification (concept of scale), microscopy||Painting and digital manipulation, collage, with geometric shapes and references to size/scale including galaxies/space|
|Stroke and brain injury/repair, histology, identification of proteins in tissue sections||A series (6×10) of small delicate abstract watercolours mounted together|
|Neurodegeneration, stem cells, migration of cells, degeneration and regeneration, fluorescent imaging microscopy (Figure 1E)||Print making, pressing paint between surfaces to create random, natural forms in semi-symmetric shapes, alluding to the brains hemispheres and regeneration (Figure 1F)|
|Auditory mechanics and perception in autistic spectrum disorders, dichotic pitch, EEG recordings||Aural interactive sculpture using sounds specific to the research, sound installation activated when a circuit is completed by the viewer, referencing dichotic pitch|
|Tinnitus (phantom sounds) and auditory attention training, audiology, EEG recordings||Detailed pen and ink drawings, with features directly relevant to the research (e.g., people, oversized gramophones, musical instruments, tinnitus as a burden) (Figure 2C)|
|Memory formation, brain cells in culture, electrophysiology, recording of electrical signals from cells, synapses and how neurons communicate (Figure 1C)||Prints made by etching, images mimicking “connect the dots” pictures, with references to mnemonics used in learning of scientific concepts (Figure 1D)|
|Amblyopia (lazy eye) and visual perception, visual evaluation equipment, vision training||Multimedia video installation using research equipment and art/science participants, referencing the researchers visual training tests, printmaking|
|Memory and imagination investigated using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which uses blood flow as a measure of brain activity (Figure 1A)||Photographs primarily of landscapes taken while travelling, in reference to the associations made when remembering (or creating) places and experiences (Figure 1B)|
|Memory and imagination, creativity and art, evolutionary aspects, investigated using fMRI||Conceptual painting in monochromatic tones and the transcript of an interview with a psychic|
|Methamphetamine use and evaluation of potential pharmacological treatments for addiction, brain imaging including diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and fMRI||Abstract circular watercolours, influenced by concepts associated with the movement of water and drug-induced behaviours, referencing the moon (lunar) and madness (“lunacy”) (Figure 2B)|
|Brain asymmetries, differences in structure and function between the hemispheres, fMRI, stereotype of a (young woman) scientist||Large-scale portrait in oils, representing the scientist (with a model stand-in), investigating the role/image of female scientists in popular culture, identity, character|
|Post-mortem human brain tissue, microscopy, autoradiography, neurodegeneration, histology||Abstract biological paintings, influenced by changes seen when focusing on a light microscope and free-hand responses to autoradiogram film images (Figure 2A)|
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