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Arts and Neuroscience, the beauty revealed

The FENS meeting recently held in Copenhagen (2-6 July 2016) was not only an international brainstorming of groundbreaking science but also an event where Arts met Neuroscience. Indeed, the brain has become an inspiring subject for arts and in this post we want to celebrate its beauty.

During the FENS meeting a call for neuroscience-related pieces of art was launched by Art of Neuroscience, an organization born at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience as a competition to harvest and curate inspiring images and videos from neuroscience labs. The goal is two-fold: make the research from neuroscience labs more tangible and share something of high aesthetic value, while at the same time asking the scientists to evaluate their own work from a different perspective.

The call received over 120 submissions, spanning 6 continents and 21 different countries. Here, some of these beautiful pieces of work.

“The Mutual Wave Machine” by Suzanne Dikker and Matthias Oostrik (Winner)

What does it mean to lose oneself in someone else? How is it possible that the mere physical presence of another human can make us believe we can conquer the world, or, conversely, make us feel lonely and incapable? Does human interaction mediated by technological interfaces affect communicative success? The Mutual Wave Projects are art installations and neuroscience experiments that embody the elusive notion of ‘being on the same wavelength’ with another person through brainwave synchronization.
With this series of interactive neurofeedback installations, we explore the interface of performance art and neuroscience in an effort to understand the brain basis of human social interaction. The experiments are executed outside of traditional laboratory settings, such as schools and museums.
The goal is to engage audience members not only by providing an immersive aesthetic experience, but also by involving them directly in the scientific process: The audience participates as viewers and e

xperimental subjects at once. The authors believe that such first-hand experience with the scientific process helps the public better understand and reflect on science as it is presented to them in popular media.

The Mutual Wave Machine 1

The Mutual Wave Machine 3

Enclosed by an intimate capsule and immersed in an audiovisual environment that responds and reflects their shared brain activity, two visitors can directly experience and manipulate their internal efforts to approach each other, or distance themselves from each other.
During the experience, greater brainwave synchronization is reflected in greater vividness and more coherent and recognizable audiovisual patterns, while lack of synchronization strays towards dark audio-visual chaos: a faint ringing in the ears and static in the retinas.
The visualization of neural synchrony is supplemented by a direct audio translation of each participant’s individual brain activity, creating an evolving composition of volume changes and harmonies that hover at the often uncomfortable perceptual boundary between rhythm and pitch.

But how does this installation work?

“Aurore Boreale” by Alicia Lefebvre, Emotions Synesthetes, France (Honorable mention)

Aurore Boreale

“Axons in Shape” by Michiel Kleinnijenhuis, Oxford University, UK (Honorable mention)

Axons in Shape

“Butterfly of the Soul” by Robin Scharrenberg, , University of Hamburg, Germany (Honorable mention)

Butterfly of the Soul

Here you can find all the 120 awesome images. Enjoy this unusual but extremely exciting brain/art gallery!

Any views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of PLOS. This article is not meant to encourage excessive alcohol consumption.   

Peppe-BWGiuseppe Gangarossa received his PhD in Biomedical Sciences, specialty Neuroscience, from the University of Bologna. He has been a visiting fellow at the Karolinska Institutet (Sotckholm, Sweden) and Inserm (Montpellier, France) and he is currently a postdoc at the Collège de France (Paris, France). His main research topic is dopamine-related brain disorders. You can follow him on twitter @PeppeGanga

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