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Jan. 25, 2013

The Minimalist Brain

by Annette Heist

Click to enlarge images
Click on icon in upper right corner of slideshow to enlarge images.
Halfway through his PhD program in neuroscience at UPenn, Greg Dunn was inspired to try a new experiment: using the brain structures he was seeing in the lab as the subject matter for his minimalist Asian-inspired paintings. 
 
"In grad school, I would be looking at these images all day, and I was already on an Asian-art wavelength," Dunn says. "One day I saw some images of Golgi-stained neurons, and I thought, 'They're sort of similar to these Zen paintings I've done.'  So I started experimenting, blowing ink around on a page. And it looked like neurons to me."
 
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Dunn says that was his "aha moment," when it occured to him that he could combine his two interests—neuroscience and art—into one pursuit.
 
To create a painting such as Cortex in Metallic Pastels, shown above, Dunn starts with a piece of stainless steel sheeting or metal-leafed acrylic panel. The surface is scratched, so light bounces off of it in a polarized way, Dunn says. "This allows you to control how light will be reflected." Dunn then paints that scratched surface with a series of transparent dyes, finishing the piece with protective coatings.
 
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Since graduating in 2011, Dunn has supported himself as an artist, but he says he's still very much a scientist. "These are complicated paintings, with many layers. I do a full scale mock up in Photoshop and set up a protocol to follow," Dunn says. "I'm not doing 'science art' because I am painting neurons. I'm approaching art scientifically, using my knowledge of physics and chemisty."
 
To see more of Dunn's work, check out his website and the slideshow above.
About Annette Heist

Annette Heist is a former senior producer for Science Friday.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.
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Code:
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line 2: sub doEval { 
line 3: 	my($parent);
line 4: 	
line 5: 	if($LayoutManager::url_resolved_values{'SEGMENT.nickname'}) {
line 6: 		$parent = $LayoutManager::url_resolved_values{'SEGMENT.nickname'};
line 7: 	}
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line 21: 	
line 22: 	if(!$parent) {
line 23: 		my(@sel) = &Database::SelectClause('GLOBAL','record all ""');
line 24: 		if(@sel) {
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line 26: 		}
line 27: 			$main::ENV{'reading_header'} = "FEATURED READING";
line 28: 	}
line 29: 	
line 30: 	 = '';
line 31: 	
line 32: 	if($parent) {
line 33: 		my(@books) = &Database::SelectClause('BOOK',"parent = $parent");
line 34: 		0 = 0;
line 35: 		my $dots;
line 36: 		foreach(@books) {
line 37: 			my(%data);
line 38: 			&Database::GetRow($_,'BOOK',\%data);
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line 40: 			if($data{'title'}) {
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line 45: 			}
line 46: 			if($status eq 'ok') {
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line 51: 				 .= "		</div>";
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line 53: 				 .= "	<h4>$title</h4>";
line 54: 				if($author) {
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line 66: &doEval();
line 67: 1;

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