Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Neuroradiology as Art

Crucifixion, by Francis Bacon (1933).
Crucifixion (1933) (oil on canvas) was subsequently purchased by Sir Michael Sadler (who, other than friends or relations, was the first to buy a painting), and who also commissioned a second version, Crucifixion (1933) (chalk, gouache and pencil), and sent Bacon an x-ray photograph of his own skull, with a request that he paint a portrait from it. Bacon duly incorporated the x-ray directly into The Crucifixion (1933).
A paper by an interdisciplinary team of Serbian radiologists, anatomists, artists, and pathologists examined how neuroradiological images have been used as a form of artistic expression (Marinković et al., 2010). They started by describing skull x-rays incorporated into the paintings of Francis Bacon and Diego Rivera, then gave examples of contemporary artists who transform computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance images (MRI) into art. These works include Wooden Brain (The 3D MRI Cubes) by Neil Fraser and "Art and Science #1" by Marjorie Taylor, which can be seen at the The Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art.

I would add to the list any number of works by Damien Hirst, including this self-portrait:

...which he incorporated into this album cover for See the Light by The Hours.

Marinković and colleagues (2010) mentioned the commercialization of neuroradiology and colorized pictures of the brain by companies such as shutterstock, where you can subscribe for $249 a month and download stock photos of a "female doctor examining a brain cat scan" and "colorful brain model isolated on dark background" (much like this one).

The authors also surveyed 12,673 artworks in books and Google images. They found that neuroradiological images were used in 29 works (1.01%) created by 31 artists (1.58% of 1,964 total).

They wished to make their own contributions to this collection, and they did so with three pieces presented in the paper. In one of these, they
...performed an x-ray of four post mortem hemispheres following the injuction of a radiopaque substance into their sulci and insertion of the copper wires around the corpus callosum and along the calcarine and parieto-occipital sulci. The radiograph of one of the hemispheres was then superimposed in Phototshop with the photograph of the subsequently made cast of the cerebral arteries.

Radiological Image, by Marinković et al. (2010).

Finally, they...
...made an inverse image of a colorized brain in a front view. this image was then superimposed with a photograph of illuminated optic fibers in the background.

Cognitive Radiation, by Marinković et al. (2010).

Anatomy and art intersect in a number of places, at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, the Morbid Anatomy website, the Bioephemera website by Jessica Parker, and Gunther von Hagens' BODY WORLDS (the Bioethics of which is discussed here), among many others.

Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century by Carl E. Schoonover is a popular new book that's currently out of stock at Amazon.

Neuroradiology, and especially the development of beautiful colorized diffusion tensor images, has captured the minds of artists, designers, and the public.

From the Human Connectome Project, an effort to map the white matter connectivity of the human brain.


Marinkovic, S., Stošic-Opincal, T., Štrbac, M., Tomic, I., Tomic, O., & Djordjevic, D. (2010). Neuroradiology and Art: A Review and Personal Contribution The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine, 222 (4), 297-302. DOI: 10.1620/tjem.222.297

"I think one of the things is that, if you are going to be a painter, you have got to decide that you are not going to be afraid of making a fool of yourself.

I think another thing is to be able to find subjects which really absorb you to try and do.

I feel that with out a subject you automatically go back into decoration because you haven't got the subject which is always eating into you to bring it back - and the greatest art always returns you to the vulnerability of the human situation".

-Francis Bacon

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At December 21, 2010 4:57 PM, Anonymous Jared said...

Thanks for this post. I'm working on my own art of neuroimaging book. You can see a few of my images here: http://brainybehavior.com/neuroimaging/2010/11/the-art-of-neuroimaging/

At December 22, 2010 8:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is another contribution to the art form:


At December 28, 2010 2:03 AM, Blogger Neuroskeptic said...

My sister got Portraits Of The Mind for Christmas. I was a bit annoyed that she got it rather than me but I'm sure I'll be able to borrow it...

At January 05, 2011 8:33 PM, Blogger Mini Choco-Pretzels said...

Having been in a coma and also being an artist, ain't nothin' more inerestin' than seeing your own soul in internal moving pictures. And on film: before, during, and aft. Subsequently became a tremendous part of my art - or I should say, added another layer to what was already there.

Immediate post-coma art is the sheeeet. Word salad on hospital napkins, drawing incredibly symbolic things with one eye open. Those drawings are very dear to me. Connections to the waking world from limbo. And the limbic system.

Needless to say, the brain is where it's at - wherever that is. I think. . . or do I?


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