Neuroscience and art collide in new Imperial exhibition



Imperial neuroscientist Professor David Dexter talks about his work with artist Susan Aldworth for Transcience - an exhibition at the Blyth Gallery.

David Dexter works with brains and understands all too well the visceral effect this crucial organ can have on members of the public.

“We used to do outreach at the Science Museum with children, and it’s probably at about 11 or 12 years that they develop this ‘eew’ factor about the brain that stays with them through to adulthood,” David says.

“It’s just trying to get over that mystery about the brain, that it is a beautiful structure itself - and it’s a fascinating object really.”

'It’s trying to get over that mystery about the brain; that it is a beautiful structure in itself and a fascinating object,' - Prof David Dexter

As a top Parkinson’s disease researcher and Scientific Director of the Parkinson’s UK Tissue Bank, David sees engagement as crucial. Neurodegenerative disease treatment cannot advance without pre-consent for post mortem tissue removal by both afflicted and healthy individuals.

Stemming from a desire to promote discussion, and from his own love of art, David joined the GV Art Gallery group called the Arts and Minds Movement. Several artists expressed a desire to see a brain dissection, and from that a series of neural-inspired artistic endeavours were launched.

The works featured in Transience were created by Susan Aldworth, using both traditional etching techniques and digital photography. The former involved contacting brain slices directly with zinc plates, which were then put into acid baths to form etchings of each organ’s unique architecture.



The photographs, meanwhile, were taken after the brain slices contacted paper and the patterns created by the moisture were captured before they dried out and disappeared – thus inspiring the title of the exhibit.

After the pieces were made, David returned the specimens to the tissue bank, where they continued their role in medical research. Before being displayed at Blyth Gallery, the pieces were shown at GV Art with David fielding a Q&A session. “They’d come along to see the artwork primarily, but they were starting to ask about the tissue, who donates it, the donation procedure and if it’s something anyone can do. It does work at bridging the gap between the art and the science”.

Transience is open until 1 May 2014. Prints are for sale, and a portion of the proceedings go towards Parkinson’s Disease research.


Aliyah Kovner

Aliyah Kovner
School of Professional Development

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