Sunday, July 17, 2016

WEEK 4: Neuroscience & Art

Neuroscience captures the complex the relationship between mind and body. Though Aristotle bears the title as the “father of psychology,” Franz Joseph Gall was a pioneer in the field with the idea of cerebral functions being concentrated in different areas of the brain. It wasn’t until the invention of microscopes that Santiago Ramóm y Cajal discovered nature of the nervous system and developed neural theory. Eventually he and Camillo Golgi won a Nobel Prize for the structure of the central nervous system. Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were at the forefront of the unconscious mind and dreaming, both of whose theories are still greatly referred to today. Artists have captured the aesthetics of the brain through “brainbows.” Neurons can be distinguished through fluorescent proteins and create beautiful, colorful images of the pathways in the mind.

Brainbow of a mouse hippocampus
Perhaps the most interesting part of this week’s lecture for me was neurochemical research conducted by psychiatrists. Drugs that are now illegal were hailed has “psychological cure-alls” and a source of exploration. LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) was used to understand multiple mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, and develop psychological treatments. Many prominent psychologists, such as Harvard professor Timothy Leary, experimented with drugs on themselves. LSD became Leary’s choice for his research as he started the Harvard Psychedelic Club. Here, he and his followers experimented with various drugs and students claimed profound experiences and positive effects on their lives.

The casual and medicinal use of the drugs surprised me. If anyone were to start a club like this at UCLA there would be severe backlash from the university and the community (which eventually occurred for Leary, too)! However, the psychological effects of drugs remain an interesting topic among artists and researchers. In recent years, artist Bryan Lewis Saunders experimented with thirty different drugs and drew thirty self-portraits to see how his perception of self was affected while under the influence.

A few of the portraits from Saunder's experiments of being under the influence of multiple drugs. From left: Marijuana, Xanax, Crystal Meth, and Cocaine. His perception of self based on the drug is interesting. I'm also amazed he didn't die during the experiment. 
The portraits are striking and it’s amazing how different each is. Regardless of the influence of drugs, it is clear our brain is complex and multi-dimensional and we still have a lot to learn about it. The brain itself is an area of infinite artistic capacity; neural impulses formulate the symbols on this page into thoughts, it stores our memories and precious moments, and, as Jung stated, ensures “all the hopes and yearnings of the soul are adequately expressed” (Jung 3). As both science and art progress, I’m excited for the discoveries about such an important piece of who we are.


"Brainbow." Center for Brain Science. Harvard University, n.d. Web. 17 July 2016.

Lattin, Don. "The Harvard Psychedelic Club." The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 09 Jan. 10. Web. 17 July 2016.

Saunders, Brian L. "Bryan Lewis Saunders - DRUGS." Bryan Lewis Saunders. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2016.

Short, April M. "30 Self-Portraits Drawn While the Artist Was Under the Influence of 30 Drugs." Alternet. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2016.

"Sigmund Freud." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 17 July 2016.

"Timothy Leary." A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 17 July 2016.

Jung, Carl. "The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man." (1928): 1-11. Print.


Saunders, Brian. 30 Self-Portraits Drawn While Under the Influence of 30 Drugs. 14 Apr. 2014. Web.

Timothy Leary. 1960. Alchetron. Web.

Weissman, Tamily. Brainbow. N.d. Cell Picture Show, Harvard University. IGTRCN. Web.

No comments:

Post a Comment