Sensory Processing and Neurotopographics

While we’re on the subject of art and neuroscience I recently discovered a couple of pieces that caught my interest.

The picture is a piece by Sandra Dawson called ‘Sensory Processing’ which has combined a cap used for EEG recordings of the brain with comforting objects and materials.

I recycled two EEG caps, cut up pyjama bottoms which were freeform crocheted with the leads and black yarn, with iPod headphones
symbolizing synaesthesia with output from the eye going to the ear.

It’s called “Sensory Processing” and is meant to evoke sensual comforts (music, flannel) that are perceived and processed by the brain; only with my hat, it’s abstracted and externalized into fashionable form so that viewers ponder connections.

It’s part of a show currently on at the Femina Potens gallery in San Francisco until January 28.

The other piece is one I saw at the weekend called Neurotopographics and is a collaboration between artist Antoni Malinowski, architect Bettina Vismann and neuroscientist Hugo Spiers.

It takes inspiration from the recent discovery of three types of neurons that seem specialised for spatial awareness and navigation.

Place cells provide a ‘you are here’ signal; grid cells signal information about distances travelled and head direction cells provide a sort of internal compass.

So far, these have only been discovered in rats, but Spiers and his collaborators have created a film of how they might operate in humans.

In fact, they’ve created three films which run simultaneously:

The resulting artwork – which will be on show at the Gimpel Fils Gallery from 18–21 January – follows the journey of a person through space, in this case the gallery itself. The actor is filmed from two camera viewpoints: a static wide angle position, which records movement and spatial position, similar to a surveillance camera; and from a dynamic point of view, filmed out of the perspective of the actor’s eyes, recording the subjective impressions of the space and his journey through it. The films will be simultaneously projected onto the gallery walls and combined with a two-dimensional animation displayed on the floor representing assumed brain cell activity patterns.

Rather annoying, the website only works properly in Explorer, but the film from the observational point of view and the firing of the cells can be experienced online.

Link to Femina Potens gallery.
Link to Neurotopographics website.

One thought on “Sensory Processing and Neurotopographics”

  1. “So far, these have only been discovered in rats, but Spiers and his collaborators have created a film of how they might operate in humans.”
    This isn’t entirely correct. Kahana and colleagues discovered a human equivalent a few years ago. See here:
    Ekstrom, A. D., Kahana, M. J., Caplan, J. B., Fields, T. A., Isham, E. A., Newman, E. L. and Fried, I. (2003). Cellular networks underlying human spatial navigation. Nature, 425, 184–187.

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