Unknown Variability by Sean Cavanagh WINNER 2017

The image shows the variability of responses of single neurons in Prefrontal Cortex to stimuli predicting rewards, whilst animals are making simple decisions. Each line represents a neuron. The neurons are sorted by their resting stability, and neurons with greater resting stability are the lines towards the top of the image. The figure shows that neurons with greater stability have stronger responses to the reward-predictive stimuli. The image is also intended to resemble the pioneering 1979 post-punk debut album by Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures. The image was featured on the cover of the journal eLife in October 2016 (link to paper).

Excitation Locus by Mustafa Hamada HONORABLE MENTION 2017

The 3D image is of somato-dendritic morphology of a thick-tufted layer 5 pyramidal rat neuron recorded in vitro and featured in our article published in PNAS. The red-coloured section highlights the physical boundries of the axon initial segment. While the axon initial segment is occupy a small stretch of axonal membrane, it represents a dynamic signal processing unit within neurons, regulating the integration of synaptic inputs, intrinsic excitability and transmitter release.

The neuron was recorded in vitro and post-hoc processed for biocytin to obtain neuron morphology and betaIV-spectrin (scaffolding protein) to label the axon initial segment. The brain section was later scanned using confocal microscope and optical sections were imported to ImageSurfer2 and Blender to obtain this 3D rendered image.

Animon by Dana Simmons HONORABLE MENTION 2017

To create this image, I loaded a single cerebellar Purkinje neuron with fluorescent dye, which is seen here in gold. The background colors show the texture of the tissue surrounding the neuron. The different stripes are produced by changing the brightness of extra lighting while simultaneously using a confocal microscope to take a scanning picture. In this particular image, it is easy to see the dendritic spines, which are tiny structures that stick off the thin dendrites, and are sites for synaptic plasticity.

The goal of my experiment with this neuron was to study the calcium currents passing through dendritic spines in order to learn about calcium signaling during synaptic transmission in a mouse model of autism. The calcium-sensitive dye travels with the calcium ions, providing me with a visual indicator of where the current goes and how it passes through spines. I am interested in spines, because they are one place where excitatory synapses are found in the cerebellum.

Root & Branch Brain by Michele Banks HONORABLE MENTION 2017

My artwork is inspired by neuroscience in two major ways. First, the huge scientific and technological advances in imaging, from Brainbows to MAP-seq, are gradually making available clearer and more accurate images of the brain, its structure and functions. These images are so beautiful on their own that they have inspired me to make several paintings like Batik Retinal Neuron and Black and White Neurons.
Second, the growth of neuroscience research – for example, studies linking the brain and the gut microbiome – encourages us to think in new ways about the nature of cognition and emotion. My brain slice paintings, such as Root and Branch Brain (depicted) and Neural Pathways, explore these ideas in a more metaphorical way.

Point of Change by Daniel Barkan HONORABLE MENTION 2017

For my artistic research I have decided to work on a new innovative practice which introduces neuro-feedback in dancers’ daily practice. As a dancer and choreographer without a medical-science background I decided to research the subject and practice neurofeedback myself with the ambition to start a new generation of dance. I discovered a new exciting world connecting art and science and was inspired. In this submission dancers move and dance to shape a brain with ropes, which at the same time this also shapes and influences their movement. The music used will be the soundtrack of the neurofeedback sessions (as to give a shape to the sound of our brain when it is shifting and changing. The brain is creating its own music). I called the dance piece “point of change” as for my personal experience with the neurofeedback training, I was amazed to feel major physical and mental change in my body, my perception and my being.

Slicing the Rat Connectome by Michel Sinke STAFF PICK 2017

Michel R.T. Sinke (together with, Alexander Leemans, Rick M. Dijkhuizen, Willem M. Otte, Annette van der Toorn and Paul L. Weerheim), Imaging Division, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Our non-invasive diffusion MRI-based quantification of whole-brain axonal connections combines the power of sensitive, non-invasive tissue probing, with accurate multi resolution tract reconstructions, by means of multi-shell global tractography, in rat brain left in the skull. This tissue-friendly method creates unique potential for longitudinal studies. The simultaneous access to local microstructure information and global stereotaxic orientation already provided us with unique insights in the axonal olfactory bulb pathways in the rats, in the cerebellar topology and the complex fiber bundle crossings in cortico-striatal circuits. The corpus callosum, cingulum bundle, brainstem and the arbor vitae of the cerebellum can be clearly made out.

Harmony in Numbers by Marvin Weigand STAFF PICK 2017

In this work we show that according to optimal wiring principles neural maps appear suddenly with increasing cell numbers (here along the spiral towards the middle) even as the underlying connectivity remains unchanged. Each dot represents a neuron at its specific location and colors indicate the feature tuning of these neurons, e.g. their orientation preference in the visual cortex.

The Brain by Brennan Klein STAFF PICK 2017

Recently, I have found myself trying to analyze calcium imaging data from cortical neurons of a mouse. The patterns of activity in these data were astonishing. In front of me were hundreds of blob-like neurons, periodically bursting in a slow, greenish glow, illuminating the sinewy connections between them. It was as if these cells were collectively breathing, as if they were a giant mass of organized chaos, little starlings flocking and unflocking, under no central command, loosely maintaining order. The most beautiful patterns emerge during a massive migration of birds, and they emerge simply from local interactions between the component parts of the system. This observation can be powerfully described using principles from complexity science and methods from network science, both of which have also richly informed the study of neuroscience in recent years. It is an exciting time to be a scientist, and I have tried to convey my own excitement in the details of every single part of this piece.

Starry Night by Christophe Leterrier STAFF PICK 2017

Hippocampal neurons after two days in culture, fixed and labeled for microtubules (cyan) and actin (orange). Isolated neurons or group of neurons have been manually shifted relative to the others in order to obtain a more regular image. The whole image represents an area of 1365×1024 microns.

Mindless Proces by Krisztina Cika STAFF PICK 2017

The project was inspired by the lecture, “If brains are computers, who designs the software?” by Daniel Dennett.
A philosophical approach related to neuroscience that was explained at the Royal Institution on 6th April, 2017.
His thoughts and examples shaped my conceptual art and design perspective.
We live in a society where technology has developed to such an extent because of our improved intelligence over time. Questions, dreams and fantasies start to relate to each other, so I asked myself:
Would it be possible to recreate the nervous system with a technological process, like 3D printing?
Instead of using already existing 3D printing systems, I started autonomously working with chemistry and electricity. My aim was to make these two elements communicate with each other to create an interpretation of the nervous system. The process is simple: halogen lights using electricity provide heat that slowly warms up the glass. Since glass has the advantage of remaining at a consistent heat, the wax is able to change consistency and melt. The motion of dripping and melting creates “prints” and the shape of the prints are based on the heat settings.
While building the installation, in order to visualise how perikaryon and dendrites can be physically created, shape-wise, I found that all the actions performed by the installation are examples of how our nervous system functions.
Today, the first intelligent designers in the tree of life (with reference to Daniel Dennett) are in a vulnerable position. They are changing the world and holding a mirror up to the face of society, making people feel, reflect and question existence. Yet, they are also in the position of being able to collaborate with science, explore the crossovers and discover new perspectives.
In my project I worked together with Arthur Maduro who has build the wooden construction for the installation, further with Pierre Niviere (video edit) and Robert Riphagen (capturing the result).

Tiled Autophagy by Claudio Bussi STAFF PICK 2017

Electron microscope image showing a microglial lysosome (left, big vesicle) and a double-membrane autophagosome (right, small vesicle) in close proximity. Autophagy is an intracellular degradation system that delivers cytoplasmic constituents to the lysosome. As an essential process to maintain cellular homeostasis and functions, autophagy is responsible for the lysosome-mediated degradation of damaged proteins and organelles, and thus misregulation of autophagy can result in a variety of pathological conditions in human beings. The image captured the instant before lysosomal fusion.