Neuromag July 2018 - Page 23

(left) DFG Leibniz Lecture with Frank Bradke and the Neuroscience in Germany XXIV Social. (right) “Convergence” was painted by Pollock and is considered one of his best works. Some conservatives believe that there is no ‘beauty’ in abstract expressionism sad life! Image prop- erty of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY (right). slide, when I saw the painting by J. W. Waterhouse at Dr. Bradke’s slides, “Ulysses and the Sirens”, I became a molecular-mechanisms-of-axon- growth-and-regeneration groupie (if that even exists). Another example of a nice talk in the Society for Neuroscience was Dr. Pasko Rakic, a well-humored Serbian neuroscientist, known for his radial unit hypothesis and further work on the development of the cortex. He showed one of my favorite paintings, La Clairvoyance by René Magritte. This painting shows a self-portrait of Magritte during his process of crea- tion – he stares at an egg, but he paints a bird. As a painter, Magritte is making a statement: I am a clairvoyant, I convey the future in my part, I see the process of creation and existence in advance – and that only be- cause I am an artist. Dr. Rakic, however, boldly announced the bridge between this painting and the work of a scientist. A scientist should be able to see outside of the box – a broader picture of the pre- sent’s reality must be in sight in order for science to prevail, as we know it is a flexible and revolutionizing disci- pline. “Science and art walk together, you should know that”, added Rakic, after showing Magritte’s painting. Having Leonardo da Vinci as my spir- itual mentor, (I hope I do not sound too spiritualistic for a scientist), the concept of art and science walking together is already part of my indis- putable reality. It is impossible not to notice the science behind Escher’s paintings, or the art behind Cajal’s de- piction of pyramidal neurons. One can argue that science and art are sepa- rate fields– but then we come to the second level of perception that I intro- duced earlier. One way of contemplating Art is by finding the aesthetical essence to it e.g. by finding the beauty in the de- termined thing being presented. This thing, let it be a painting, sculpture, theater play, furniture or whatever else, should portray a message that reaches out more to the observer than the artist himself. This message being perceived and interpreted by the ob- server, is my definition of ‘beauty’ in the art realm. PS: I should also add here that ‘beauty’ is a very nebulous term, as it involves cultural parameters and personal ex- perience (I, for instance, have already heard people saying that Pollock’s paintings look abysmal, declaration that still today haunts me…). Upon using the scientific method, how can one not find beautiful that Na- ture’s laws obey to no God, to no en- tity, to no one, but only to the laws of Physics and Life itself? How can one not see the beautiful aesthetics it pre- sents? Upon painting something with no ref- erence to science or the natural laws still the painting is going to be ob- served by photoreceptors in the retina and decoded in the primary visual area in the occipital lobe, Perhaps maybe it will trigger connections in the limbic system and the hippocampus, trig- gering memories and emotions from previous years… I might have end up in a Sisyphus’ trap; I might have condemned myself to an eternity trying to explain why think- ing of art and science as inseparable makes so much sense, at least in my world. Maybe I should try to stop here, or maybe I just should have my brain checked in fMRI while I am looking at Magritte’s paintings, or while I am reading Kandel’s Principles of Neuro- science. “Come hither, come hither, neuro- science apprentice,” art invites me. Flamboyant and warm, while the cold, razor-sharp logic of Science weights in my back like a boulder. Upon not knowing where to go, I remain aboard the ship, hoping it will not sink, hop- ping I will not drown. Oh, this is going to be a long ride… Image sources were open source or belong to the author, unless otherwise noted Cover image source: Ulysses and the Si- rens, 1891 National Gallery of Victoria. and Clairvoyance, 1936 Art Institute of Chicago Eduarda Streit Morsch is currently in the Neural and Behavioral Neuroscience Masters Program in Tübingen, Germany. July 2018 | NEUROMAG | 23