Sunday, May 15, 2016

Week 7 - Neuroscience and Art

This week's topic was the intersection of neuroscience and art. At a glance, this connection seems like a bit of a stretch, especially in light of the divide between the two fields as we have mentioned before in our discussion of the two cultures. However, it stands to reason that the mind is intimately related to the creation of artistic works - at its core, we generally accept that the brain is what controls everything about ourselves and thus the mind is what ultimately creates works of art. At the same time, the brain is also what perceives, processes, and interprets those works in other people. An understanding of how the brain works, therefore, can lend itself to understanding both sides of artistry, the creative aspect and the viewing aspect.

An illustration of Jung's archetypes of the collective unconsciousness

I found Jung's concept of the collective unconsciousness to be an interesting concept from this week's lectures. This concept states that there is a level of the human mind that is shared among all people and contains certain basic motifs ("archetypes") that are intrinsic, and that the individual then branches out from this baseline but is always affected by it. It was difficult for me to wrap my head fully around this idea, but it makes sense to a certain extent when applied to myths and stories from different cultures. It is easy to draw parallels in old stories from cultures separated both geographically and ideologically, from the wise old man or lady to an evil, tempting animal figure. Jung's argument seems to claim that these parallels stem from a species-wide collective neurological commonality.

Brainbows from Livet et. al.

The brainbow concept was also very interesting to me, partly because the images generated are pretty, and partly because the science behind this fluorescent expression is really interesting to me as a scientist. I think that there is still a great deal of research that needs to be done for this beautiful display to yield more functional results, but in the meantime I think that this sort of artistic illustration of the cellular makeup of the brain is a great way to bridge a gap in understanding between the scientific community and society at large.


IMAGE 1 - "Collective Unconscious and Cultural Insight (Introduction to Archetypes)."Inspector Insight. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2016.

IMAGES 2&3 - "Brainbow." Center for Brain Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2016.

"Collective Unconscious and Cultural Insight (Introduction to Archetypes)."Inspector Insight. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2016.

Corbett, Lionel. Psyche and the Sacred: Spirituality beyond Religion. New Orleans, LA: Spring Journal, 2007. Print.

"Brainbow." Center for Brain Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2016.

Livet, Jean, Tamily A. Weissman, and Jeff W. Lichtman. "Transgenic Strategies for Combinatorial Expression of Fluorescent Proteins in the Nervous System." Nature 450 (2007): 56-62. Web. 16 May 2016.

Lichtman, Jeff W., Jean Livet, and Joshua R. Sanes. "A Technicolour Approach to the Connectome." Nature Reviews Neuroscience 9 (2008): 417-22. Web. 16 May 2016.


  1. Hi Avery, I really enjoyed what you wrote when you explained how the rainbow concept was interesting to you. I completely agree with you about how it's a great way to bridge the gap between the scientific community and society. I also found the pictures you used very intriguing. The mind in fact does create works of work, something that is so incredibly fascinating to me! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. I liked how you tied together the brain and art. You gave me a new perspective on how neuroscience and art go together better than one would initially think. Great job.