This microsculpted painting was created to emphasize the exquisite complexity, chaos, and order of the human brain. It is intended to illustrate the challenges that lie ahead in solving the connectome, a brain-wide map of how every neuron is connected with one another. As the brain is a deeply confusing mess of dendrites and axons, it is difficult to depict this complexity because a flat 2D image becomes an undifferentiated mass of neural fibers that makes it difficult to decipher individual components. In order to communicate the complexity, I along with my colleague Dr. Brian Edwards developed techniques in photolithography and gilding that allowed us to microengrave distinct sets of neurons and glia such that they are responsive to light at specific angles. As the painting rotates, sets of neurons will appear and disappear depending on the orientation of the engraving relative to the light sources, allowing the complexity to be taken in discrete units instead of the overwhelming task of taking it in all at once. This strategy also allows the color of a painting to be dictated by the light sources, not the pigments in the paint.
Music: Chopin, Minute Waltz