A stage for neuroscience and art: the OHBM BrainArt SIG perspective

Review

A stage for neuroscience and art: the OHBM BrainArt SIG perspective

Analysis Methods Imaging Acquisition/Methods, MRI, EEG, MEG, fNIRS, PET Neuroinformatics, Pipelines, Data, or Data Sharing

Abstract

Science and art have been intertwined for centuries, as both embody means for humans to represent, communicate, and interpret our external and internal worlds. The collective effort to gather and organize knowledge about the brain blends well with a wide array of human creative activities, from visual and performing arts to interactive media. It thus comes as no surprise that the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) has a Special Interest Group (SIG) dedicated to providing a platform for (neuro)sci-art: the BrainArt SIG.

Here, after properly introducing all the main characters, we follow the development of this captivating script: from its grassroots prelude within the Neuro Bureau to its recent online instantiations. In particular, we highlight our three exhibitions since becoming an OHBM SIG – Ars Cerebri, 2019; Neurodiversity, 2020; Big Data and Me, 2021 – the associated competitions, and the scientific visualization sessions that have contributed to making brain art a distinguishing feature of the OHBM annual meetings, for both in-person and virtual formats.

Our digital object, written as a piece of theater, ends by highlighting the ways art can help (neuro)science reach a wider audience as well as break out of its comfort zone: a productive happily ever after!

Received

Correspondence Valentina Borghesani, valentina.borghesani@criugm.qc.ca AmanPreet Badhwar, amanpreet.badhwar@criugm.qc.ca

Keywords: brain art, sci-art, transdisciplinary, science communication, public outreach, OHBM BrainArt SIG

SCENE:

The Master of Ceremonies is standing in front of the curtain

PROLOGUE

Welcome Guests, all alike in dignity,

To the brain art stage, where we lay our scene,

Exploring neuroscience and art affinity,

Where creativity stands in between.

Distinguished Guests, please take a seat. The story we are about to tell starts in media res. Two valiant and trustworthy friends, the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) and Aperture Neuro, stand at the side of our protagonist, the BrainArt Special Interest Group (SIG), as it faces a menacing antagonist [Fig. 1]. After properly introducing the dramatis personae, we will flashback to our beloved characters’ past as well as flashforward to their bright future. Do pay attention, if you please, our story conveys a moral: nothing is out of reach when neuroscience and art come together.

SCENE:

The curtain open. Set pieces are strewn across the floor and hanging mid-air in disarray.

STAGE CENTER:

OHBM, startled by some racket from solemnly arranging the pieces into a pleasant order.

ENTER STAGE LEFT:

COVID-19

As (un)luck would have it, the OHBM meeting planned for 2020 in Montreal fell during a period of our lives that we will not soon forget – both because of the hurdles of the COVID-19 pandemic and because of the versions of ourselves we might have become [1]. Perhaps we, and the world at large, will never be the same again. But it was never-the-same-again numerous times in the history of humanity – for example, the development of the printing press, the eradication of smallpox, or the discovery and mass production of penicillin (e.g., [2]). Both during and after major global events, we amaze ourselves by the resilience, strength, and creativity of which we are capable. Some would even say that hardship inspires artists to produce beautiful and moving works. We, at the BrainArt SIG, attempted to showcase this.