The tokresource.org site places emphasis on both the capability and the fallibility of embodied knowing. It takes the position that philosophy, neuroscience and the arts are by no means parallel and incommensurable discourses. The high art brain imaging projects featured in today's blog post are certainly consistent with that premise. It is the author's humble view that all three projects are a notch more intriguing than almost anything at this year's Venice Biennale!
The Glass Brain Project will be of enormous interest to TOK students. It represents an intersection of cutting edge neuroscience, online gaming, entrepreneurship and fine art. The project is one of several under the auspices of the Neuroscape lab at UCSF medical school in San Francisco. The Neuroscape founder is Dr Adam Gazzaley. The Neuroscape site is well worth a visit and Dr Gazzaley has a fascinating TEDx Talk.
Dr. Greg Dunn and Dr. Brian Edwards' Self Reflected is a spectacular simulation of brain neurons in action at the microscopic level. The video reveals their Reflective Microetching technique, which requires the meticulous application of gold leaf. At the drawing stage, they blow puffs of air on little pools of ink to simulate the randomness of dendrite production.
Glass Brain and Self Reflected are artistic spin-offs of real neuroscience. TOK students should be aware that prior to brain imaging, much of our knowledge of brain function came from the trickle of evidence gleaned from individual brain-damaged patients. The use of technologies that permit non-intrusive imaging of living brains in action has revolutionized the field.
A theoretical obstacle to understanding our smart ape, embodied selves is the self-referential problem of using our brains to understand how our brains work. Our final artistic response to this conundrum is neuroscientist, Dr Karen Norberg's anatomically correct Knitted Brain, currently on display at the Boston Museum of Art.