The Most Elaborate Visualization Of The Human Brain To Date

These stunning images showcase the incredible complexity of the human brain through an explosive fusion of art and science.
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The most elaborate artistic visualization of the brain in the world, the work highlights what is happening inside the human brain while an individual is looking at such a masterpiece. Artists Dr. Greg Dunn and Dr. Brian Edwards hope this work – entitled Self Reflected because it is your brain perceiving itself – will increase appreciation for the brain’s complexity through the power of art.

Brain Art
Image: GREG DUNN AND WILL DRINKER / CATERS. The entire Self Reflected microetching under white light. The work combines space and time because it is illuminated by a number of different lights that are constantly changing in color and brightness, so that the fine lines representing neural pathways seem to shimmer as they process thought. Further complexity is seen when the viewer moves around the piece, for the three-dimensionality of the etched surface reflect different colours depending on the viewer’s angle of perspective.

While other disciplines often struggle to convey complex, multi-layered concepts, art is uniquely positioned to communicate ideas that are difficult, if not impossible to express otherwise. Self Reflected takes advantage of art’s power to use perception and emotion to implant a deeply nuanced idea and make direct connections about the brain of the viewer directly into the brain of the viewer.

Image: GREG DUNN AND WILL DRINKER / CATERS. The parietal gyrus where movement and vision are integrated. Without the accompanying light show to impart movement to the experience, Self Reflection simply would not work. It needs to combine movement and vision to impart meaning.

The visual art form is ideally suited for the task of opening one’s awareness to the most amazing wonder of our bodies because it displays the beauty of the brain’s immensely vast and orderly structure while at the same time showcasing its chaos. The brain’s neurons form branching fractal patterns that anyone familiar with chaos theory will recognize, yet not even our most sophisticated medical imagine technology can map the deepest, tiniest levels of neural pathways.

Brain art
Image: GREG DUNN AND WILL DRINKER / CATERS. The thalamus and basal ganglia, sorting senses, initiating movement, and making decisions. This region of the brain gets a heavy workout when viewing Self Reflected, because experience the artwork calls upon all these activities at the same time.

To illustrate the brain’s unique combination of randomness and order, the artists chose to paint each one individually using the technique of blowing ink on the canvas with jets of air. This combines the deliberation of the artist with the unpredictability of the technique to mimic what actually happens in the brain’s structure.

Brain art
Image:: GREG DUNN AND WILL DRINKER / CATERS. The visual cortex, the region located at the back of the brain that processes visual information. As a visual piece, Self Reflected uses the brain’s ability to turn visual stimulation into cogent thought by presenting a multi-layered experience that, like the fractal neural pathways it depicts, leads the viewer’s understanding down through increasingly more nuanced levels of experience and comprehension.

The actual artwork measures 96″ by 130″, and shows a slice of human brain at a magnification of about 22 times.

Image: GREG DUNN AND WILL DRINKER / CATERS

It is not one single painting, but rather 25 etched plates layered together that contain the circuit dynamics of around half a million individually created neurons. The final assembled piece is hand gilded with 22 carat gold.

Photo: GREG DUNN AND WILL DRINKER / CATERS (PICTURED: Cut plates). Brian analyzing the first assembly of completed plates. The work consists of 25 individual etches plates layered together, imparting an essential three dimensionality.

Combined with a choreographed lighting pattern from 144 independently controlled LED fixtures which reflect off the etched surfaces of each layer, the piece animates through the equivalent movement of 500 microseconds of brain activity.

Greg and Brian with Self Reflected at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, where the work is on permanent display.

The art is based on solid neurological research into the form and function of the brain. It is impossible to depict the brain in a two-dimensional way, because the organ is very much alive in thee (or more) dimensions.

Source: Greg Dunn / Will Drinker / Caters News

Individual neurons do not act in isolation, but it is rather through the interconnected behaviour of neurons in three-dimensional space interacted with one another over time that brain activity actually occurs.

Source: Greg Dunn / Will Drinker / Caters News

The convoluted fractal nature of neural arrangements maximize proximity of each neuron to as many other neurons as possible, enabling this characteristic brain behaviour. The chosen medium and presentation of the piece was heavily informed by this insight.

Source: Greg Dunn / Will Drinker / Caters News

The title of the art works on multiple layers, just like the brain it depicts, each playing upon different meanings of the word reflection. Superficially, it depends on reflected light within its own many layers of etchings in order to be seen.

Source: Greg Dunn / Will Drinker / Caters News. This is the entire Self Reflected microetching when viewed under violet and white light. The reflective microetching technique used to create the work has no inherent color, but draws its palette from the colors of the lights under which it is viewed.

For the viewer, it is a reflection of their own brain, one that causes them to reflect upon how consciousness is somehow made possible within the amazing lump of matter in their head. And it also opens the mind to infinite regressive possibilities by illuminating how the human brain looks an awful lot like the universe itself.

Source: Greg Dunn / Will Drinker / Caters News

Source: Greg Dunn / Will Drinker / Caters NewsSelf
Is our universe actually someone’s brain?

Source: Greg Dunn / Will Drinker / Caters News. The pons, a region involved in movement and implicated in consciousness. Self Reflected seeks to expand the consciousness of the viewer by confronting them with the dazzling beauty and awesome complexity of their own mind.

Source: Greg Dunn / Will Drinker / Caters News

Is your brain actually someone’s universe?

Source: Greg Dunn / Will Drinker / Caters News. The parietal gyrus where movement and vision are integrated. Without the accompanying light show to impart movement to the experience, Self Reflection simply would not work. It needs to combine movement and vision to impart meaning.

Self Reflected is on permanent exhibition in the Your Brain exhibit of the Franklin Institute, a world class science museum in Philadelphia, PA. Physically find it at 222 N 20th St., Philadelphia, PA 19103.

More on gregadunn.com/self-reflected.