The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal

Blending art and neuroscience, a new exhibit in New York City showcases the drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the father of modern neuroscience. The exhibit opened yesterday at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, and you have until March 31 to take it in.

ramon y cajal astrocytes in hippocampus

A drawing by Cajal of astrocytes in the hippocampus of the human brain. Image: Instituto Cajal del Consjo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid/CSIC

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Art in the Lab

How do you envision the brain? Do you imagine a blue glowing brain or a brain-shaped computer, which graphic designers love? Or perhaps you think of more technical imagery, such as brain slices or an MRI? While the former are purely artistic and the latter are very scientific, neither group really translates the intricacy of the brain.


Credit: Shutterstock

Greg Dunn, Ph.D., is trying to bridge the gap between these types of images by illustrating the complexity of the brain through artistic renderings on the cellular level. Dunn received his doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania and now focuses on art full-time. On Wednesday, he shared his passion with the public at an Art in the Lab program at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, as part of Brain Awareness Week.

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The Arts and the Brain: Oct. 24

Please join us in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, October 24, for a free public event about arts and the brain. Part of the Neuroscience and Society Series co-sponsored by the Dana Foundation and AAAS, speakers “will address the neurobiology of how we respond to music, and how the brain processes form, symmetry, color and stereoscopic depth perception.” During the reception, attendees will also have access to a special art exhibit, “Beauty and the Brain Revealed,” and to a musical performance.

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Arts and the Mind: Neuroaesthetics

Does it matter if art is beautiful? Does interpretation depend on taste and culture? These are some of the questions tackled by panelists at a recent World Science Festival event, “Sunday at the Met: Arts and the Mind.” The topic was the emerging and increasingly interdisciplinary field of neuroaesthetics. Moderated by Cooper Union president and cognitive neuroscientist Jamshed Bharucha, experts in a variety of fields came together for the discussion:

Luke Syson, art curator at the Met, questioned how taste varies according to cultural upbringing and the environment where a work is situated. He pointed out that aesthetic responses to the man-made and natural world differ and that our “conscious awareness [of art] is only the tip of the iceberg.”

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How Theatrical Lighting Creates Illusion

We’re in the final month of Brainwave at The Rubin Museum in New York, which this year brings together artists and neuroscientists to explore the idea of illusion in different contexts. Sunday evening’s program, held in partnership with the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, will pair Tony Award lighting designer Jules Fisher with Harvard vision expert and Dana Alliance member Margaret Livingstone, Ph.D. They will discuss how Fisher’s techniques create illusions. Tickets are available for purchase online.

Dr. Livingstone has studied how the visual system processes different artistic aspects, including form, color, depth, and movement. To learn more, read our 2006 interview “Visual System Processing and Artistic Genius.”

– Ann L. Whitman

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