My interest and knowledge in approaches to studying the brain has been helped by lectures through The Blue Brain Project. There are five types of neuroscience:
Experimental, theoretical, computational, applied and lastly simulation neuroscience. The last category, simulation neuroscience unifies both experimental and theoretical approaches. Every detail of the brain is considered, nothing is left out; all data is taken into account.
There are many organisations and individuals who research the brain, on an industrial scale there are the Allen Institute, Human Connectome Project, Human Brain Project and 200,000 individual researchers.
There are a billion molecules in a cell and thousands of molecular pathways, millions of molecular interactions per second in a cell! There are 2,000 cell types, 900 brain regions and the human brain has a thousand trillion synapses and 100 billion neurons.
Scientists map these to understand how these all interact together to give rise to emergent behaviour , psycho physical properties, cognition and behavioural repertoire. There are in total 600 different brain diseases.
How do scientists gain a complete picture? By establishing the strategy of how pieces fit together. Algorithms both random and organised are reconstructed, the smallest component first.
There are different types of neurons that all connect differently, axons connect the neurons and touch every neuron and puts out lots of synapses.
Multidisciplinary approaches to data interests me, how can an artist contribute?
The scientists Santiago Ramon y Cajal was also an artist who drew nerve cells and made comparisons with trees. Y Cajal was a visionary who saw that signals run through the bodies anatomy. Seeing the axon as the output signal and dendrites as the receiver or input. The neuron is a sophisticated branching structure that generates electrical signals, a unique type of electrical devise.
These electrical patterns of flowing signals are simulated in the Blue Brain Project, and the question “why do the neurons generate electrical activity ?”is asked. Electrical footprints of a neuron are studied and modelled. The complexity of the processes involved are being realised and the process of synaptic transmission in terms of a current being measured in relation to Serotonin and Dopamine which create happiness and motivation and histamine which creates wakefulness. This has led scientists to research depression and alterations of neurocircuits in different regions of the brain. There are now therapies involving these states that have used multimodal neuroimaging data.
As an artist, creativity and the brain fascinates me alongside perception, consciousness and learning. How the brain works and sometimes doesn’t concerns my own practice too. Understanding my own processes of creating my own practice. Why do I create art? How when I am creating do I feel differently?
Understanding these processes takes time and having the self belief to keep practising when we doubt we are good enough is all part of this creative process of making art.