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Image of the Week: Art inspired by MRI brain scans

BRAIN SCAPES, a new art installation at the Stanford Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging, features the work of Stanford alumna and artist Laura Jacobson.

The pieces on display were inspired by MRIs of the human brain and reflect the work of the center to investigate connections between neuroscience and society. A recent Stanford Report article offers more details about the goal of the exhibit:

The center, in the basement of the Department of Psychology, uses the MRI to support research that advances understanding of the brain, including decision-making, cognition, perception, child development, education and emotion.

"It's not a weird, scary place filled with chemicals," said psychology professor Brian, Wandell, who directs the center. "But it's an MRI and there is a scary quality to it."

Wandell said one of the goals of the art installation is to break down some of that fear.

"It's a place where we bring families to study brain function, why we do things, behavior. We thought having art that reflects what we see and do and our mission might make all of it more inviting," he said.

On display are clay sculptures, etchings and acrylics, including the above piece titled Neuron No. 3. According to the BRAIN SCAPES brochure (.pdf):

[The painting] references three moments in neuroscience history: Jan Evangelista Purkinje (1787-1869) discovered and named these large cerebellar neurons in 1837; Italian physician Camillo Golgi (1843-1926) developed a process in 1873 that stains only a few neurons from the tangled masses; and Spanish physician Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852–1934) used Golgi’s staining technique for his seminal drawings of the nervous system in the early 20th century. Neuron No. 3 alludes to this history and aims to express the complex beauty of the neuronal landscape.

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