Dr. Brian Edwards (left) and Dr. Greg Dunn (right) at the
Mutter Museum’s exhibition preview: Mind Illuminated, Philadelphia, PA
A new exhibit by Dr. Greg Dunn at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, PA may help to shed some light on the topic, literally! Dunn earned a PhD in neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania. As a graduate student, his artistic experiments included blowing a drop of ink across a piece of paper. Dunn chose this technique because traditional hand painting failed to capture the neuron’s naturally chaotic treelike branches. One can view Dunn’s minimalist approach in the silk scrolls below which are now on display at the Mutter Museum.
“Cortex In Ink” Ink used to portray a cross section of cerebral cortex
|or “Alzheimer’s Tangles” Gold and ink used to illustrate diseased neurons|
Ultimately, Dunn found the exclusive use of ink limiting: A mass of neural fibers could not be portrayed because the individual neurons lost their distinctiveness. Faced with this obstacle, Dunn and a colleague, Dr. Brian Edwards, an electrical engineer at the University of Pennsylvania, designed a revolutionary technique called reflective microetching. This complex innovation gives the artists a way to “compose...many neurons” yet “digitally assemble them as individual units.” The blown ink designs are “hatched” or engraved onto photoresist/photolithography (the same material used to make nanoscale bits on microchips). These embossed neurons are layered at different angles with the potential to reflect light. Then the material is metalized or gilded. To showcase the work, the microengraving is carefully placed in a frame with strategically placed lights.
One impressive and brilliantly lit piece at the Mutter exhibit was the Brainbow Hippocampus - where millions of neurons are clustered. For this particular piece, Dunn was inspired by Harvard studies using fluorescent proteins on mice; however, the anatomy of each neuron comes from his imagination.
|Brainbow with colored lights|
Without colored lights, the microetchings are thin, steel gold-plated sheets. This is what the same Brainbow Hippocampus piece looks like without the reflection of colored bulbs.
|Brainbow Hippocampus - no light|
After turning off the colored bulbs, Dunn waved a flashlight in front of the reflective microetching to demonstrate the transformative powers of light. Suddenly, the layers of neurons in the microetching became more pronounced and the circuits appeared animated. This 37 second video clip shows the Brainbow in action: http://youtu.be/DVDiVGTCreM
This is Dr. Dunn explaining it on a previously web published YouTube video Brainbow Hippocampus.
The expression of the microetchings changes as one moves side to side. Using another piece from the exhibit entitled “Chaotic Connectome,” one can contrast two angles of the same piece.
Dunn believes this technique captures the energy of neural networks. Thanks Dr. Greg Dunn and Dr. Brian Edwards for “illuminating” the mind for the public and psychology students nationwide. Your science-infused artwork helps to clarify the complexity of the brain. Greg Dunn’s work will be on exhibit at the Mutter Museum from July 3, 2015-January 7, 2016. See http://muttermuseum.org/exhibitions/mind-illuminated-works-by-greg-dunn/
More Web published material on this topic -
● Greg Dunn’s website: http://www.gregadunn.com/
● Introduction to Microetching https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLt5A29N0zg