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Sculptor of Her Own Brain

[ 3 ] May 16, 2014

Butterflies-of-the-SoulEdit-212x300

Rebecca Kamen believes that artists and scientists have a similar mission, and she tries to reflect these similarities in her sculptures. Inspired by the work of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, “the father of modern neuroscience,” some of her sculptures are on display at the National Institutes for Health, where she has been the artist in residence in the neuroscience program. PBS NewsHour has published an article about her story, called “Portrait of a dyslexic artist, who transforms neurons into ‘butterflies.’” Ramón y Cajal famously referred to the cells in our brain, which he was the first to discover, as “butterflies of the soul.”(Recollections of My Life, 363), and this is the title of Kamen’s signature piece (as well as a phenomenal book about Cajal and what one might call art-historical brain imagery). But the article, and Kamen’s story, connects deeply to another Cajal quote as well. Her creative self-reflections on her experience with dyslexia call to mind perhaps the most transformative idea that the great genius ever put into words: “Every man can, if he so determines, become the sculptor of his own brain.”

(Copyright: Rebecca Kamen)

Fridtjof the Great

[ 2 ] February 24, 2014

I never knew about Fridtjof Nansen. His 1887 doctoral thesis argued for the independence of the nerve cell, making him one of the earliest defenders of what would be called “the neuron doctrine.” He promptly quit neuroscience and went on an arctic expedition across Greenland. Then he went to the North Pole. He topped it all off with a Nobel Peace Prize, after serving his native Norway in the League of Nations for a decade. His lasting legacy, however, is probably the “Nansen passport” for stateless persons, still recognized by over fifty countries.

“It is better to go skiing and to think of God, than go to church and think of sport.”

-Fridtjof Nansen

2014 Congress of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics

[ 13 ] January 10, 2014

This just in from the IAEA– not the International Atomic Energy Association, but rather the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics. They will be holding their 2014 summit in NYC in August, and have issued an open call for abstracts, as well as artistic submissions. Researchers who wish to present their artworks will have an opportunity to speak about their work at the IAEA event as well.

The 2014 IAEA Congress is an opportunity for researchers and scholars from different domains and countries to present and share empirical research on aesthetics, creativity, and the psychology of the arts. Submissions may address questions concerning: aesthetic perception, appreciation, emotion, experience, and judgment; the creative process in various media and domains; cultural studies; musicology; art historical perspectives on aesthetics and creativity; architectural and design studies; museology; philosophical, theoretical, and methodological issues in aesthetics research; and many others.

You can find out more and submit your abstracts here.

Interesting New Autism Research

[ 8 ] November 7, 2013

A new research article, published online for the journal Nature, shows that infants who were later diagnosed with autism spent significantly less time focusing on people’s eyes than infants who were not later diagnosed. Warren R. Jones and Ami Klin, of Emory University, co-authored the paper. The New York Times recently ran a feature on the research, which discusses the implications for early brain development and improvements in autism diagnostics.

If you’d like to look at how this line of research potentially relates to some broader theory in the field of autism research, one book to check out is Mindblindness by Cambridge psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, which connects autism to “theory of mind.” I imagine Baron-Cohen would make the case that reduced eye-directed gaze in autistic infants supports his theory, though, like all psychopathlogy, the mechanisms of autism are little understood and the theories are controversial.

CUriosity3 Seminar Program Fuses Art and Science

[ 1 ] October 2, 2013

CUriosity3

CUriousity3 is a new public seminar program housed at Columbia University in New York City, addressing the “intersection between art and science with a view to start interesting discussions and debate around the common ground of creative practice and scientific discovery.”

The series kicked off on Monday night with an intriguing conversation between stem cell biologist Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic and biological artist Oron Catts, who synthesizes his art from living cell cultures. The evening consisted of presentations by each expert, followed by an open discussion with a moderator and an opportunity for the audience to ask questions.

The next two events in the series are as follows:

 

SfN is Looking for Brain-Inspired Artists

[ 1 ] September 30, 2013

The Society for Neuroscience is seeking artists and craftsmen whose work is inspired by the brain and the nervous system to sell or just exhibit their paintings, sculpture, multimedia, or crafts at the annual meeting, to be held later this fall in San Diego.

As they describe it, “This is a chance to sell to a crowd of more than 30,000 researchers, doctors, technicians, writers, and professors from across the neuroscience world.”

This is the second year of the Art of Neuroscience exhibit, and last year, the exhibit included the gold leaf creations of Greg Dunn and jewelry by Kathleen Childress. Reports from conference organizers were that “all the artists were very well received and not only sold many pieces on-site, but took custom orders.”

SfN representatives advise that space is limited and will be assigned on a first come, first served basis. The annual meeting is Nov. 9-13 at the San Diego Convention Center.

To find more information or to fill out an exhibit application, you can visit http://www.sfn.org/annual-meeting/neuroscience-2013/at-the-meeting/art-of-neuroscience.

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