Bringing Neuroscience and Art Together
CONNECTIONS is a collection of artwork and scientific images that portrays aspects of neuroscience, brain diseases and mental health disorders, and their intersections with art and life. This collection was born from a desire to build links among the scientific community at the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute (NMHI) at the University of Alberta, patients with neurological and mental health disorders and the community at large. The purpose of our efforts is to display the beautiful connections that exist among our brain cells; to weave together the threads that bridge neuroscience research, clinical care, and recovery from brain diseases and mental health disorders; to amplify the warm, inspiring, healing power of art; and most importantly, to highlight our human connections.
Connections are vital for our lives and well-being, and can take many shapes and directions. There are over 100 trillion connections, known as “synapses,” among the cells of our brain alone. These synapses are what make our brain work. They determine who we are, how we feel, what we remember and how we interact with the outside world. Infinite types of other connections with the world around us define our lives. These connections can sadly deteriorate in brain diseases and mental health disorders but sometimes they can be restored through empathy and care. From the neuroscientist to the patient, the caregiver, and the clinician, we believe that true and meaningful progress involves collaboration. We need to understand, share, and empathize in order to promote connections, advance science, support one another and improve the lives of those with neurological and mental health disorders.
We are truly grateful for the collaborative efforts of designer Gillian Harvey and writer Daniel Laforest on this project, and also extend our gratitude to all the amazing artists and researchers who contributed their work to the collection.
Simonetta Sipione & Marilène Oliver
MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR OF NMHI
CONNECTIONS is a collaborative project between the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute (NMHI) and the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta that uses images to bring to life the relationships between art, expression, neuroscience and the mind.
There is an inherent beauty and complexity to the manifold facets of neuroscience, from molecules that interact, to synapses, wiring and neuron layering, and how physiology flows from them all. Similarly, in the broad spectrum of mental wellness, our behaviours, vulnerabilities and resiliencies define us as humans within communities.
The NMHI is a collective of dedicated individuals connected by a determination to improve our understanding of the nervous system and to find better outcomes for individuals suffering from disabling neurological and mental health disorders. Our members embrace this challenge by finding innovative solutions through fundamental discovery research in neurobiology, novel therapeutics, clinical trials and other forms of critical investigation. They are scientists and clinicians who are driven by compassion, scientific curiosity and innovative ideas.
CONNECTIONS displays this mission in a very compelling way that we would like to share widely. The NMHI faculty, staff and trainees are thrilled to bring this project to fruition. In this effort, they were joined by the Faculty of Arts. Simonetta Sipione and Marilène Oliver’s leadership and coordination were integral to the process, and the project would not have been possible without their efforts.
Message from the Director of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute
BRINGING ART & NEUROSCIENCE TOGETHER
We can say connections are beautiful because they open up an innumerable future. Certainly, that’s true. But the connections that make us are perhaps even more beautiful for having no discernable origins in the past. A crucial lesson from philosophy is the idea formulated in the 17th Century by Baruch Spinoza. He said humankind constantly falls prey to the fallacy that we can know the primary causes of any phenomena. In reality, things are made of smaller components as far as the microscope can see. At a certain level, matter exists in vibrations and waves. The very idea of “cause” becomes hazy, almost fictional. Instead, wouldn’t it be more fitting to look at the connections that hold things together? This is what every artist taking part in Connections set out to do.