A neuro-art magazine has published a brain image taken by Dr. Jason Askvig.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – and in this case perhaps the brain, too. A new pictorial magazine created by an MIT graduate student features images of portions of the brain taken by scientist.
While the brain might not sound like something interesting to view, the images, captured with a special fluorescent microscope, resemble abstract art with scientific meaning. Askvig, assistant professor of biology, had a hypothalamus image published in the new magazine called Interstellate.
The magazine began as a few simple tweets. MIT graduate student Caitlin Vander Weele thought it was a waste that so few people got to see the beautiful images neuro-scientists would take. So she started by asking for submissions from scientists.
“The goal of Interstellate is neuroscience outreach and awareness,” Vander Weele says. “To accomplish this, we utilize beautiful images of the brain accompanied by informative text to communicate neuroscience concepts and discoveries.”
Askvig submitted an image he had taken from the hypothalamus of a rat’s brain that showed oxytocin neurons and supporting cells called astrocytes.
“I sent in a photo, she tweeted it out and I thought that would be the end of it,” Askvig says.
But Vander Weele took the project a step further to create an online magazine of the images. The depth of the background behind some of the images is enough to give us pause. The reds and the greens in Askvig’s image of the brain are brain cells that are communicating with one another.
“The question is how do the astrocytes and the neurons ‘talk’ to each other?” Askvig says. “How do they allow some form of communication?”
Askvig has spent years researching that question. If scientists can come up with an answer, it could help people who suffer from traumatic brain injuries. Right now scientists know that at younger ages the brain can work to repair itself. Askvig believes that the communication between these cells is what drives the recovery. As a brain gets older it can’t self-correct.
“If I had a better idea of how these cells communicate with one another, perhaps a therapy could be designed that would allow similar communication to occur in older brains that may allow them to recover the way that younger brains can following injury,” Askvig says.
So while we enjoy the view paging through Interstellate, know those pretty proteins serve a tremendous purpose and scientists are just figuring out what some of it might mean.
Want to hear more about Dr. Askvig’s brain research?
Attend his Centennial Scholars Lecture at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 in Morrie Jones Conference Center, Knutson Campus Center.