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Artist and scientists create a “walk-in brain”

* 24 March 2004 *

Artist and scientists create a “walk-in brain”

Imagine what it would be like to walk into a brain and experience the sights and sounds of thinking in action.

Norwegian artist Sol Sneltvedt set her own grey matter to work on this problem and,  in collaboration with University of Sussex neuroscientist Professor Michael O'Shea, has created Mindscape, a dynamic audio visual-art installation which will be on display from April 1-13  at the Unitarian Church, New Road, Brighton.

The installation involves projections of highly magnified images of brain nerve cells, which have been digitised and processed and combined with sounds derived from the electrical impulses of living nerve cells.

"This is art work with a resonance in science," points out Sol, who worked closely with Professor O'Shea and his team for  the 12-month fellowship funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) and Arts Council England. "It's based on real information I have gathered. We have 100 billion of these brain cells in our head. I wanted to enlarge them to give them a physical presence."

Professor O'Shea says: "It's exciting to see an artistic interpretation of  one of the fundamental problems of neuroscience, which is how to deal with a machine that has an unlimited capacity while the tools we have available to study it only look at it on a microscopic level."

Other Sussex academics involved in the project include neuroscientists Volko Straub, Dr Amar Chiter and Dr Swidbert Ott, computer scientists  Lincoln Smith and Tom Smith, and computational neuroscientist Dr Andy Philippides.

The scholarship was one of just 16 awarded last year by the AHRB in a programme designed to bridge the divide between the arts and sciences. Another scholarship went to Sussex geneticist Dr Robert Whittle, who is working with artist Heather Barnett on a photographic study exploring the themes of design and metamorphosis.

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